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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Homosexual Blood Donors Debate Causes Uproar; Commission Calls

September 27, 2001
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 Ireland.

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."