Belfast News Letter (United Kingdom) (09.26.01) - Thursday,
A claim that gay blood donors could pass on the AIDS virus
provoked an uproar in the Northern Ireland Assembly on
Tuesday. Assembly member Edwin Poots (Democratic Unionist
Party-Lagan Valley) attacked the Human Rights Commission's
call for the lifting of a ban on blood donations by
homosexuals. "It is a human right for people who are receiving
blood to know that they are getting clean blood and blood that
has not been contaminated by the HIV virus," he said. Blood
Transfusion Service policy currently prohibits men who have
had sex with men from being donors.
Poots made his comments after unionists tabled a motion
claiming that the commission had failed to address the
concerns of both unionists and nationalists in Northern
Member Monica McWilliams (Women's Coalition-South Belfast)
branded Poots' comments "... disgraceful. Let the records show
that this chamber should be ashamed that any member would ever
make such a comment," she said. Dara O'Hagan (Sinn Fein-Upper
Bann) also said Poots' views brought shame on the Assembly.
"This was an attack on people who suffer from AIDS, who suffer
from hemophilia and hepatitis, and unfortunately it's
indicative of the backward thinking amongst so many sections
of people in this society."