CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News UpdateUNITED KINGDOM: Northern Ireland: Gay Blood Ban Debated in High Court
April 19, 2013
Pink News (04.17.13)
Northern Ireland’s High Court is considering whether to maintain Northern Ireland’s current policy stipulating a lifetime ban on blood donation for gay men or to align with the policy of England, Scotland, and Wales. Since 2011, these United Kingdom countries have allowed men who have sex with men to donate blood only after they have abstained from sex for one year. Health Minister Edwin Poots stated that he wants to preserve Northern Ireland’s lifetime ban to prevent the spread of STDs, not because he is a born-again Christian who objects to same-sex relationships.
An anonymous gay man initiated the suit to change Northern Ireland’s policy to the one-year deferral for blood donation. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the man is also a born-again Christian who now disapproves of gay sex. Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin questioned that report and stated that the case “wasted” the court’s time. Larkin argued the case was really about a man who was prohibited from donating blood because he has “exchanged money for sex,” rather than being about theology or a health department official’s views about morality.
Opposing council, David Scoffield QC, advised Mr. Justice Treacy that the lifetime ban was disproportionately harsh since only one “additional HIV infection per billion blood donations” would occur if Northern Ireland adopted the 12-month deferral. Scoffield claimed that would mean only one more HIV infection every 50,000 years. Judge Treacy has not yet decided the outcome of the case.