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Blood donation policy ‘still stigmatises gay and bisexual men’ – Rainbow Project

The Rainbow Project has called for further changes to NI blood donation laws. Photo: Pacemaker

Northern Ireland’s policies on blood donation from gay and bisexual men still stigmatise those groupings despite being brought in line with the rest of the UK, according to the Rainbow Project.

The Rainbow Project is the largest organisation in Northern Ireland promoting the health of LGBT people.

The new Health Minister at Stormont, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, announced just days after her appointment that she would recommend the lifetime ban on blood donation from gay and bi-sexual men in NI be changed to be brought in line with the UK law.

Currently, that would see those groupings banned from donating blood within 12 months of having sex.

The Rainbow Project's John O'Doherty with Health Minister Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Pacemaker

The Rainbow Project’s John O’Doherty welcomed the change from a lifetime ban, but said that the current law is not fair either.

He was speaking as the RP announced an international partnership with the US-based advocacy campaign Blood Equality on World Blood Donor Day on Tuesday.

‘We were delighted to see the end of the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and we thank Minister O’Neill for moving so quickly on this policy change,” he said.

“However, as we have made clear for many years, we do not just want to exchange the lifetime ban for an unreasonable one year deferral.

“Instead we want blood donation policies which are based on science not stigma and which do not automatically write off a whole community as a ‘threat’ to others."

– John O'Doherty, RPNI Director

“To this end, we are delighted to announce our partnership with the US-based campaign Blood Equality who, like us, are campaigning for blood donation policy to be based on science and not stigma.

“This partnership will allow us to develop more international links for sourcing and sharing the best available scientific evidence so that we can finally do away with discriminatory blood bans and have blood donation policy based on risk and not sexual orientation.

“At this time, we mourn the horrendous violence and loss of life from the homophobic attack on Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, but a bitter irony is that, while hospitals were calling out for blood donations to save the lives of victims, gay and bisexual men were still banned from donating blood to their LGB&T sisters and brothers.”