The Conservative Party’s gay group has launched a campaign to highlight the inequality of the UK’s ban on gay men donating blood.
LGBTory, which is affiliated with the Conservative Party, began a petition at Manchester Pride last weekend, gathering 100 signatures.
The current ban, in force since the 1980s, prevents any man who has ever had sex with another man, including safe sex, from donating blood.
Critics blame the ban on the assumption that gay men are at a high risk of carrying HIV. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says the ban on gay blood donors originates from homophobic myths that stereotype and demonise gay men.
LGBTory chairman Matthew Sephton believes the ban is unnecessary “discrimination“.
Mr Sephton said: “At a time when the blood service is crying out for new donors, the fact that there is still an arbitrary ban on a certain section of society from giving blood (ie gay men) is a disgrace and nothing more than discrimination.
“There is increasing evidence that this ban is not needed and so we would like to see an urgent review of the law in this area. Our petition is the first step in our campaign to have the blood ban reviewed and we will be campaigning vigorously to see a change in the law in this area.”
LGBTory is not part of the Conservative Party but work in tandem with Conservative Campaign Headquarters and LGBT Conservative MPs.
The group says it will contact the 307 Tory MPs in the next week to highlight LGBT issues and to encourage political support.
Members also hope to spur awareness of the issue by writing to prime minister David Cameron to act against the ban.
The blood ban is also opposed by Labour’s gay group LGBT Labour and DELGA, the Liberal Democrats’ gay group.
Currently, the government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs is conducting a review of the ban. It is expected to report its findings in early 2011.
Sweden recently lifted the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood, while Belgium and parts of Spain do not discriminate against gay men who wish to donate blood.
Australia only bans donations from people who have had gay sex in the past year.
A recent study from the online Canadian Medical Association Journal advocates that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood should be reconsidered and replaced with a deferral for those who have been in a stable, monogamous relationship for at least a year.