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bloodonationA ban on gay men being blood donors in Northern Ireland, has brought shame on the country, student leaders are set to claim.

The Associated Press reports that the ban is to be raised by student union officials at the NUS-USI annual conference which begins in Co Fermanagh.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Edwin Poots, came under fire for maintaining then ban even after Britain had removed the sanctions. Officials say he has yet to make a final decision on the matter.

President of NUS-USI Adrianne Peltz said the organisation wanted to see equality across society. “That’s why at this year’s conference will also be raising the issue of putting more pressure on the Health Minister to remove the despicable ban on gay men from donating blood, which has been lifted in other parts of the UK,” said the union leader.

“For a ban to exist on gay men giving blood is an absolute disgrace as it flies in the face of equality and fairness. Think of the appalling message that this ban sends out. The fact that this blood donation ban is being lifted elsewhere but still exists here brings shame on Northern Ireland.

“For government to fail to lift the ban would be scandalous. As well as this being a key equality issue, we also need more blood donors here and this is literally a matter of life and death for a significant number of people in Northern Ireland.”

A department of health spokesperson 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.”

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