Students from all over the UK will converge on blood donation centres in their town today campaigning for the National Union of Students Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (NUS LGBT) day of action.
Students say that the current National Blood Service policy, which bans gay and bisexual men from giving blood for life is archaic and they are calling for a review of the policy.
NUS LGBT campaign is one of the only campaigns nationwide that is lobbying on this issue and will be joined at the London protest by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, representing Outrage!
NUS believes that the policy, which asks men whether they have ever had unprotected sex with another man, is homophobic.
The policy effectively equates to a lifetime ban on donations from gay and bisexual men regardless of their current lifestyle and therefore the suitability of their blood.
The day of action will see students up and down the country encouraging friends, fellow students and passers-by to donate blood in place of the thousands of gay and bisexual men who can’t.
Scott Cuthbertson, NUS LGBT officer who is co-ordinating the event said: “Students across the UK are very angry about this discrimination. The questions asked at blood donation sessions mean that all gay and bisexual men are banned from giving blood for life, regardless of their behaviour, whilst high-risk heterosexual people slip through the net.”
He called on the service to change its policy.
“NUS LGBT priority campaign this year is ‘Donation not discrimination’. The main tenet of this campaign is to ensure a review of the policy takes place, so that the behaviour of the individual is assessed rather than their membership of a group,” he added.
Claire Anderson, NUS LGBT Officer, at the London protest, said: “This policy is really frustrating because lots of healthy gay and bisexual students want to give blood but can’t because of the ban.
“It’s not someone’s sexual identity that makes them high risk, but their sexual practices. Heterosexual people who engage in high-risk behaviour are not banned, but deferred for a limited time; a blanket ban perpetuates the myth that HIV/AIDS is a gay disease, and does not treat donors equally and on the basis of actual risk.
“That’s why we are here today encouraging our friends to donate in our place and talking to donors to raise awareness of the policy. Most people we have spoken to are really surprised that this kind of ban is still in place. We are calling for equal treatment for donors regardless of sexuality.”
It follows protests by student groups earlier this year.
South Africa recently lifted a blanket ban on gay blood donation and similar calls are being made in Australia, Sweden, Russia and America.
According to The National Blood Service, gay men are in a high risk group and it is safer for them not to give blood.