A Northern Ireland MP has said there is no reason to stop gay men from donating blood, signalling moves the ban to do so could be completely scrapped.
In a letter to UK Health Minister Jeremy Hunt, Northern Ireland Health Minister Simon Hamilton has requested an assessment of the current risk levels of men who engage in sexual activity with other men, from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs, reports the BBC
In particular, Hamilton has asked for the level of risk associated with "permanent deferral, five year deferral and a one year deferral".
"If such a piece of work affirms emerging evidence that blood safety has been increased in Great Britain, it would be my view that such evidence should be followed and that Northern Ireland should adopt the same policy on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM) as the rest of the United Kingdom", said Hamilton.
“Should the latest scientific evidence indicate that safety has increased, coupled with improvements in testing for HIV, hepatitis and other transfusion transmitted infections, I think it would be only right and proper for Northern Ireland to follow suit.”
While Hamilton's stance is at odds with his two predecessors, Edwin Poots and Jim Wells, Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson also supports lifting the ban
“When the demand for blood is often higher than the availability of stocks it meant that the continuation of the ban here was ridiculous given local hospitals receive blood donations from Great Britain where no such life-time ban on gay men exists,” she said.
“I trust that when Simon Hamilton now receives the medical evidence he is waiting for, which will again inevitably state that the ban is not necessary, he will ensure the policy is adopted by all members of the DUP – including those who have acted so irrationally in the past.”
It was during the 1980s AIDS epidemic a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was originally put in place across the UK, but was partially lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 following recommendations from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
In its place was introduced a 12-month deferral period, meaning gay men who have not engaged in sexual activity for a year can donate blood.