Why Lifting The Blood Ban On Gay Men Donating Is A Big Step Forward For NI

To say I’m delighted that the new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has made the decision to lift the lifetime ban on gay men, or men who have sex with men, giving blood would be an understatement.

blood-732298_1280During the BBC’s Leader’s Debate before the recent Assembly Election, Arlene Foster, Leader of the DUP who previously held the Health Minister seat, said “I’m heartened I have to say, to hear Colum (Eastwood) say about taking the politics out of health, because that’s what Simon Hamilton has tried to do.”

To which I asked, “Why, if the DUP are so for taking the politics out of health, why as a gay man can I still not give blood?” and was told by Ms Foster, “It is around the risk issue.” And that “scientific evidence” was the reason that I, as a gay man, cannot give blood.

What health issues? All blood is screened no matter who donates it, we’ve been importing blood from the mainland UK for years where gay men have been legally donating blood since 2011.

Under the new law, which should be rolled out in September, men who have sex with men will have to abide by a one year deferral system in which they cannot have had sexual intercourse with another man in the 12 previous months. Obviously this isn’t perfect for many of us, but it’s in line with the rest of the UK.

To say I’m delighted is an understatement. I’m fired up, I’m excited and I’m ready. The lifting of the lifetime ban has set the bar for the next 5 years of government in terms of LGBT issues.

We aren’t stopping at blood donations, we’re going for everything. We’re going for full equality, socially and legally.

The Anthony Nolan Trust have been saving lives through Stem Cell Donors, to which I am registered as it wasn’t covered by the ban. Check them out at anthonynolan.org