Health Minister Edwin Poots is standing by his decision to ban gay men in Northern Ireland from donating blood.
Speaking on the BBC Sunday Politics NI programme today (17 June), Poots said he received two new pieces of research this week that strengthened his position.
However Poots has said he does not want the ban to apply to gay people only.
He said: ‘I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood.
‘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.’
Under English, Scottish and Welsh law, men who have sex with men are barred from giving blood for a year even if they are in a monogamous relationship.
On World Blood Donor Day this Thursday (14 June), gay rights campaigners were urging the ban to be lifted.
‘Protecting the blood supply is the number one priority,’ global human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told Gay Star News.
‘But ensuring blood safety does not require a rule that men who have sex with men cannot donate blood for a year or more since their last same-sex encounter.’
He added: ‘Governments, medical associations and international bodies like the World Health Organization have a duty to press for a global agreement to end unjustified discrimination against gay and bisexual blood donors.’
UK-based gay rights group Stonewall said the change to allow men to give blood after a year without gay sex was a ‘step in the right direction’, it did not go far enough to end unfair discrimination of gay men.
Stonewall’s Andy Wasley said: ‘The safety of the blood supply is of paramount importance.’
He added: ‘We know that there is a chronic shortage of blood donations in this country and, quite frankly, to cut out 1.7 million people if they happen to have safe sex doesn’t help us tackle that problem.’