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Alliance representatives welcome changes on blood ban

Alliance representatives have welcomed a move from Health Minister Robin Swann to remove a three-month ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.

The recommendations by the For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) group would see a move from the current population-based risk assessment, with men who have sex with men not allowed to donate blood for three months, to an individual risk assessment where they are able to donate, provided they have been with the same partner and meet other medical criteria. The changes are expected to take place from summer 2021.

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA said the party has been pushing for changes for a number of years.

“Two things the current pandemic has demonstrated so clearly is we have to listen to the scientific experts and follow the evidence, and in relation to blood donation and the in-depth investigation this FAIR group has carried out, it is evident this is a sensible move,” she said.

“Men in same-sex relationships here in Northern Ireland want to donate their blood and play an equal part in supporting the health service in supporting patients. This move by the Health Minister will hopefully also send a wider signal across society about equality and respect for everyone.”

Her colleague, North Down MLA Andrew Muir, said the change had been a long time coming.

“This is a welcome move focused rightly upon science, evidence and individual assessment of risk as another step towards ensuring LGBT people treated as full equal citizens.

“A long road has been travelled to this point, with a complete ban only lifted a few years ago after the then Health Minister Edwin Poots opposed change. The expert advice has been clear for years, so this good news – for the LGBT community and society as a whole – sends a clear message discrimination will not be tolerated.”

Micky Murray, Chair of the Alliance LGBT group, added: “This is a positive development in the campaign for full equality, especially for those in monogamous same-sex relationships who have been denied the right to give blood, and assisting in saving lives. But it is shameful this change has taken so long.”