Thursday, 22 September 2011

In which the Alliance health spokesperson doesn't get it

I've been reading the reactions of the various health spokespeople on the position taken by the DUP's Health Minister Edwin Poots not to join his colleague in Wales and Scotland in following SaBTO's recommendations to introduce a 12 month deferral period on men who have sex with men (MSM) from giving blood.

However, I am shocked of the reacation of the Health Spokesperson of the Lib Dems so called sister party here in Northern Ireland. Kieran McCarthy has said:

"I am extremely annoyed that Edwin Poots is not going to lift a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. It is disgraceful that he is refusing to lift this ban. What sort of message does this send out?
"We must have a society based on fairness and this refusal to lift this ban is deeply troubling. This refusal sets a very worrying precedent.
"The Health Minister should be encouraging more people to give blood instead of maintaining this despicable ban."

For a start some of those currently banned would identify as straight, bi or gay. Some of those who would be allowed ot give blood after 12 months deferral would identify as gay, straight or bi. SaBTO's definition is MSM. The Blood Transfusion Services definition of MSM is men who have had sex with another man, either anally or orally, with or without a condom.

Let me explain to Kieran just who that covers. Of course there are gay men that is obvoious, it includes those who have been and are in monogamous relationships, which is part of the reason the Lib Dems voted this week that even the 12 month deferral period was not based on science.

There will be bisexual men. But the SaBTO recommendations will only allow those who over the last twelve months been with exclusively female partner(s) to give blood, those with a mixture of exclusively male partner(s) over that time would not be allowed to donate.

Then there are straight men who are currently banned from giving blood. They have have had an experimental MSM incident or period while they were younger and didn't like it. Therefore they know they are exclusively straight and would identify as such.

There are indeed even some gay men, who have not had sex for 12 months who will be allowed to give blood after 12 months either voluntary or involuntary sexual abstinence.

There are also the straight female partners of bisexual men who will be lifted out of their lifetime ban (although it is really only their 12 month deferral from sleeping for an MSM) should they stay together in an monogamous relationship.

What the Alliance Health Spokeperson has got wrong with the basic language of which MSM groups are affected throws doubt on on much he really gets the depths of the issue. The refusal doesn't so much set the precedent but follows on the precedent of various DUP elected representatives in relation to LGBT issues. Personally I'm shocked that a Unionist politician such as Poots should want to take an independent look at science from the rest of the Union, surely that is sepratist talk!

See also Stigma not Science: Keeping the Blood Ban in Northern Ireland

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