You may recall back in early September we first raised the issue of the Northern Ireland minister responsible for health dragging his heals over lifting the lifetime ban on men who have (or have had) sex with men MSM from giving blood. In October we posted that the minster was not in a rush to come to those conclusions, effectively this meant that the minister did not have to answer freedom of information requests about the advise he had received in the run up to his original statement that there was no need to change the system here in Northern Ireland, which appears to be an emphatic statement of a decision in itself.
The NUS-USI are adding their voice to the concern that the minister has yet to seemily come to a decision on this at their conference this week. After MLA’s from other parties in September last year already raised concerns that the minister is using stigma of homosexuality rather than scientific evidence in coming to his decision.
When the minister first seemed to come to his decision I sent an email dated 23 September asking under the Freedom of Information Act for:
- Minutes of any meetings or information that the minister has had pertaining to the SaBTO report “Donation selection criteria review – men who have had sex with men” 8-Sep-11
- Minutes of ant meetings or information that the minister has had that deal with importing of blood into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK after 7 November 2011
- Minutes of any meetings or information that the minister has had regarding as yet undiscovered or undeclared blood bourne diseases
According to a response to the NUS-USI story a spokesperson for the DHSSP said:
“The Minister has not yet made a final decision on this matter. He has asked for further information regarding the level of risks.
“Before making a final decision the Minister will consider all the relevant evidence and will take into account the issue of wider public confidence.”
I shall be looking for what that further information is once he does come to his decision when I resubmit an FOI request once he comes to a decision. I shall also be asking for when such further information was requested and of whom.
However, the last point of information requested was because of a statement made by the minister in September:
“Blood-borne infections, well-recognised or as yet undiscovered, have the potential to destroy healthy lives. Public safety must be my primary concern, and I want the Northern Ireland public to have maximum confidence in our blood supply.”
I am still wondering what new blood-borne infection what will only affect men who have had sex with men, even with a condom, is out there that the minister in not telling us about. In light of other infections at our hospital’s water taps that he is not seeking a public inquiry into, indeed then very quickly coming to a decision that nothing further needed to be done, it seems a bit strange that the specialist body on safety of blood can present evidence that the risk.
One does have to wonder how much worse this new disease is that the one addition case of HIV infected blood donation by 3215 is too much for Poots to even contemplate as affecting public confidence.