Blood donation ban on gay men to be lifted in the UK
Gay and bisexual men may very soon be to donate blood after ministers were advised to lift the current ban on any man who has had sex with another man during his lifetime.
The current legislation, has gay and bi men who have ever had sex with a man are banned from donating, although it has been stated that an estimated 7% of sexually active gay men, lie about their sexuality and still give blood.
However a new report in this weekends The Sunday Times, states new plans, yet to be announced by Anne Milton, the public health minister, will allow gay men to donate blood – but only if they have not had sex for the past ten years.
SaBTO, the government advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissue and organs, warned if the ban were to be lifted completely, the risk of HIV infection would increase dramatically. Just over 40% of those infected with HIV in 2009 were gay men, according to the report in The Sunday Times.
The current process for testing donated blood can determine whether the donor is HIV positive, but only after a certain period of time post-infection – meaning a small amount of donated blood could potentially be infected.
The 10 year period, which is very similar to New Zealand policy, aims to rule out those who are unknowingly HIV positive from passing it on. Currently, according to government figures, up to a quarter of those infected with HIV are unaware of their status.
The move has been seen as a step in the right direction by some gay rights campaigners, although not far enough by others. “It’s welcome news that a large number swathe of the population will now be able to give blood, legally now. However, it is still unfair and discriminatory towards gay people” Said gay rights campaigner and writer, Jason Shaw today. “We are still being stigmatized by the 10 year rule as unclean and unwanted. There is no allowances for circumstances, for example a gay man who is in a committed and monogamous relationship for the last ten years, who also knows his HIV status, can not give blood. While a former intravenous drug addict who has had unprotected sex with a different woman every week for the last seven years and doesn’t know his HIV status, is allowed to give blood”
“It would seem for this report, the government is not looking as deeply into the whole area of blood donation as it was once hoped. Maybe they are just ending the blanket ban on gay blood donation to avoid another costly European case against the discrimination”