Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Blood Donor ban on Gay/Bi men may be ending.

The news is that, with Swine Flu apparently doing terrible things to the blood supply (not entirely sure why. I assume lack of donors) the NHS is finally considering the horrible risk of letting gayness into you precious het-blood.

The NHS in the UK currently forbids men who have had anal or oral sex with another man EVER from donating blood. Ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 now and had oral sex with a condom ONCE 35 years ago. You cannot give blood.

This has always annoyed me. My whole family give blood. From the age of 17 to 65 they always give blood as often as they can unless medically they are unable to do so. My parents, my brother my aunts and uncles - literally all of them. I always greatly resented being considered inherently unfit to give blood based on very empty and preliminary assumptions and judgments about me. I also, on a deeply personal level, resented the ban because when I turned 17 I wasn’t READY to come out and didn’t want to - naturally my family expected me to give blood and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t. I admit to being rather bitter at being put in that situation at a time when I did not need the stress.

So, I have to say that my dislike of the NHS’ policy here is probably magnified by my personal experiences.

Let me make this clear - and to quote the blood ban petition

A straight man who has unprotected sex with a different girl every weekend can give blood TODAY
A straight man who has had unprotected sex with several prostitutes can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex with an intravenous drug user can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR
Those who have had unprotected sex abroad in a high risk HIV country can give blood AFTER ONE YEAR

Gay men are banned FOR LIFE, even if they've only ever had sex with one partner - and even if they used protection.

I'll add that by the NHS blood donor's own website it seems a straight man who has unprotected sex with a girl he knows is HIV+ can give blood after 1 year so long as he doesn't THINK he is HIV+

However, the policy appears to make no practical sense. While it is true that there are higher levels of AIDS among gay men than straight men, the majority of HIV carriers in the UK are not gay and heterosexual sex is by far the biggest transmitter of HIV in the UK. Add in that the blood supply is vigorously checked then denying a source of much needed blood like this is not only ridiculous prejudice - but it’s foolish and destructive.

The NHS is also not helping any sensible anti-AIDS campaign with this. Ignorance about AIDS continually paints it as a gay disease. In fact, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust, that ignorance is actually GROWING with a greater number of heterosexuals today believing heterosexual sex doesn’t pass the virus than there was in 2000.

We need to slam this home - this is NOT a gay disease. Gay people are not inherently diseased because we had the big bad gay sex and gay sex is not inherently harmful. At the same time straight people are

And when you decide that a gay man of 60 who had oral sex with a condom at the age of 20 cannot give blood because he’s an AIDS risk but a heterosexual man have unprotected sex with 10 different women a week is considered ok so long as he isn’t paying for it - well, that is really not slamming the message home.

Let us hope that this discriminatory practice is now ending.

There is also a Petition here you can sign in favour of ending the ban

Our blood supplies are low. That can only ever put people at risk. I - and mine - want to help. Do not risk innocents for the sake of preserving prejudice