Judge allows gay man to challenge NI blood safeguard

A judge has ruled that a gay man can progress with a legal battle against a longstanding blood donation safeguard in Northern Ireland.

The unnamed homosexual man wants a judicial review of the decision by the Northern Ireland Health Minister to keep the safeguard in place.

The protection means blood donations are not allowed in Northern Ireland from men who have ever had medically risky gay sex.


Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to seek a judicial review, with a two-day hearing set for December.

Attorney General John Larkin QC, responding in court for the Health Minister, has said the Minister was entitled to act as he has.

The safeguard exists because of medical advice showing that men who have sex with men have, as a group, a higher risk of sexually acquired blood-borne viruses like HIV.


Last month the Health Minister – Edwin Poots – said the rights of people to receive safe blood are more important than the rights of people to donate.

He said he did not want the ban to apply to gay people only.

“I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood,” he commented.

“And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about those people being able to give blood.”


The Northern Ireland safeguard also applies in the Republic of Ireland, most other European nations and in North America.

In England, Scotland and Wales the lifetime ban was replaced last year with a ban for men who had engaged in gay sex within the previous 12 months.

At the time, critics said the authorities were pandering to gay rights campaigners and ignoring medical evidence.

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