Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots has defended African blood donation comment

Edwin Poots
Image caption Edwin Poots said he wanted to extend the ban to "people who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour"

Northern Ireland's health minister Edwin Poots has defended comments he made about blood donation in relation to people in Africa.

On Sunday, Mr Poots said a ban on blood donations from gay people should also apply to people who have sex "with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes".

The African Caribbean Community Support Organisation in Northern Ireland described his remarks as "disgusting".

Mr Poots said he was not being racist.

He responded to the criticism on Tuesday, saying there "have been measures in place for decades that prohibit blood being given by people who have had sex in Africa, with a 12 month deferral".

"This is not something new," he said.

"In many African countries we have high levels of HIV and therefore it is incumbent on us to protect the safety of individuals receiving blood."

Donald Makony from ACSONI had told the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme that people in his community were "outraged" that someone at such a senior level in government was expressing such "backdated" views.

'Derogatory'

He said he was not really surprised by the remarks but added: "It was just more disgust that the man can just say these things and not really expect any kind of reaction from the people he's talking about in such a derogatory way."

Mr Makony said he would be challenging the minister about his remarks.

"This reflects the thinking at senior level in government here so getting an apology from this man is not really the issue.

"We want to get to the centre of why the government thinks in this manner and is treating people in this manner," he added.

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