WAD – End the gay blood ban

“OutRage! is urging the gay-led charities, Terrence Higgins Trust and Gay Men Fighting Aids, to actively campaign for an end to the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in London. We hope they will join us by taking a strong public stand against this stererotyped, irrational, unscientific and homophobic policy,” said LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

He was speaking to coincide with World Aids Day, I December.

“We have campaigned against the universal gay blood ban for 17 years, since 1992. THT and GMFA have previously criticised us. They have defended the exclusion of all gay and bisexual donors. We hope they will now join the campaign by OutRage!, the National Aids Trust and the National Union of Students to ensure that this sweeping ban is overturned,” added Mr Tatchell.

“The government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is currently undertaking a review. In our bid to secure a change of policy we would value the public support and expertise of THT and GMFA.

“The National Blood Service is issuing an urgent appeal for donors, ahead of the winter flu season. Some of the potential shortfall in the blood supply could be met if the total ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood was lifted.

“The lifetime ban is backed by the government, which claims to oppose homophobic discrimination. It is based on the stererotyped, irrational, bigoted and unscientific assumption that the blood of any man who has had oral or anal sex with another man – even just once 40 years ago with a condom – is unsafe. This is nonsense.

“The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe to donate.

“Among those prohibited from donating blood are: gay couples in life-long monogamous relationships, celibate gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men who experimented once with their schoolmates, and males who last had gay sex in the 1960s – over a decade before the HIV pandemic began. Even if men from these groups test HIV-negative, they are banned for life from donating blood. This policy is madness.

“The priority must be to protect the blood supply from infection with HIV. But this can be achieved without a universal ban on all gay and bisexual men.

“Other countries have ditched their lifetime exclusion, including New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia. They allow some gay and bisexual men to donate blood, in certain cirumstances.

“Since Spain and Italy ended their gay ban, the number of HIV infections from contaminated blood donations has fallen.

“In the UK, the Anthony Nolan Trust has lifted its automatic ban on all bone marrow donations from gay and bisexual men.

“The National Blood Service should replace the lifetime gay blood ban with more narrow restrictions focused on risky gay and bisexual donors. This change of policy should go hand-in-hand with a “Safe Blood” education campaign targeted at the LGBT community, to ensure that no one donates blood if they are at risk of HIV and other blood-borne infections.

“The only men who should be definitely excluded as donors are those who have had oral or anal sex with a man without a condom in the last six months and those who have a history of unsafe sex. Most other gay and bisexual men should be accepted as donors, providing their blood tests HIV-negative.

“If the blood service wanted to be ultra cautious, it could do two different HIV tests on ‘at risk’ gay and bisexual donors: an antibody test and an antigen test. This would guarantee that the donated blood posed no risk to its recipients.

“This change of policy would not endanger the blood supply. With these provisos, the blood donated would be safe,” said Mr Tatchell.

By Peter Tatchell


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