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Comment: Sex, blood and the status quo

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  1. When I was younger, before I was sexually active, I used to donate blood. The repeal of a lifelong ban has only really been done in name only. I find it unlikely that there will be a yearlong period that I won’t have sex with another man. Comparing myself to my straight best friend, I have only ever had unprotected sex with one partner, I have all my tests done once every six months, whether I’ve had sex in that time or not. I have never had a test come back positive for anything and am very aware of sexual health matters. My straight best friend however has never had protected sex, has more sexual partners than I do and leads a significantly more risky sex life than I do. Yet he is able to donate blood and I am not.

    It still isn’t about sex practices and safety, it is about gay or not.

  2. Absolutely …

    The fact Poland, Italy, Latvia, Spain and others now have a much more sophisticated approach which does not defer LGBT people purely on the basis of orientation and have had no change in blood safety risks demonstrates that the so called veneer of safety claimed by the NI minister and others is totally disingenuous.

  3. Dr Robin Guthrie 4 Jan 2012, 1:54pm

    “sexually active queer men”.

    Speak for yourself.

    Nothing queer about me.

  4. Ste McCabe 4 Jan 2012, 6:10pm

    Excellent and insightful article, lots I didn’t know about and further highlights the stupidity and bigotry of the blood donation services in these parts of Europe. Thanks Nine x

  5. Spanner1960 4 Jan 2012, 11:15pm

    Yet another bleeding heart ‘boo-fcking-hoo’ poor-little-me rant.

    The bottom line is how does it affect YOU by not giving blood? Oh, so you are upset that you feel you are not considered equal because you are a high risk group, or might possibly be considered alongside hookers and junkies.

    I cannot believe the hypocrites on here that berate Christians for complaining how same-sex partnerships somehow denigrate “true marriage”, yet by the same token state virtually the same inverted standard that serves no major real purpose to gay men, yet still demonstrates a serious potential risk to people’s lives should they still force the health service to accept their blood.

    Meanwhile, blood tests are still not 100% certain, and cutting out high risk elements is actually part and parcel of the screening process. This alongside the statistic that up to half of HIV+ gay men are unaware of their viral status.

    Answer me this: would YOU want to be responsible for infecting an innocent person, maybe even a child just so you can feel justified in being able to provide blood to a service that actually doesn’t even need your help? Most people wouldn’t have unprotected sex with a gay stranger, so why the hell would you expect somebody to accept a pint of their blood stuck in their arm?

    1. It affects me if someone I care about is in a large accident and there isn’t enough blood to go around because the blood services people excluded low risk people because they were gay or had been a call girl in college (not any riskier than the way many college students behave).

      It affects me if someone I care about is infected by tainted blood because the blood services people were too scared of offending straight people to find out if they engage in high-risk sex, and they slipped through screening.

      You want to exclude low risk donors for no reason. That is stupid.

      1. Spanner1960 5 Jan 2012, 10:40am

        It has been stated time and again that apart from very rare occasions the UK is *not* short on blood supplies. I appreciate there may be an odd situation where it might occur, but if this is the only opposition you have, it’s a pretty crappy one. So we might lose a number of people that are perfectly acceptable donors, I agree, but it only takes on infection to slip through the net. it is one too many simply to appease so-called “human rights”.

        You want to include high risk donors for no reason; that is irresponsible and potentially lethal.

        1. Unfortunately, the truth is that the sort of sex we practice is higher risk and a strangely high number of people in our community have a disturbingly care-free approach to their sexual health. I don’t know why. Taken together, that means the group is considered high risk. If I was making a policy designed to prevent innocent people receiving diseased blood I would exclude anyone belonging to a group considered to be high risk. As long as there is enough blood being received from lower risk groups, it makes perfect sense to exclude the high. If we want to change our exclusion, we should start with addressing why our community has such high STD rates and taking some responsibility for it.

          1. Spanner1960 5 Jan 2012, 11:49am

            I so agree. I appreciate many that say “I have been in a monogamous relationship for ‘x’ years, and it’s unfair to treat us all the same”, but these are the same people that witter on incessantly about the so-called “gay community”, which I personally consider a myth.

            Many gay men are promiscuous, irresponsible, selfish and egotistical; it’s part of what makes us what we are.

            Either gay people need to collectively own up to the fact we have a dark side to our natures, or we paddle our own canoes; we can’t have it both ways.

  6. So, answer me this if Poland, Italy, Latvia, Spain and others can not increase risk by ensuring that there is no discrimination based on orientation within blood supplies – why should the UK not be able to?

    1. Spanner1960 5 Jan 2012, 7:45pm

      Who said they weren’t increasing the risk? Just because they’ve allowed it does not mean it’s safe. Likewise, most other countries still keep the ban for very good reason. Pointing out the exceptions to the rule does not justify a valid argument.

      1. I will dig out the stats (again) …

        I can’t remember which report it was, but I will find them …

        There is clear evidence in the reporting of at least 4 countries which have altered their processes of no change in risk from anaylsis …

        I prefer to base my decisions on safety on evidence rather than speculation …

        Also, your status quo stance does not account for why monogamous gay couples can not donate, but robustly promiscuous heterosexuals can …

        I know where I see the risk in those scenarios …

      2. ~ Italy

        The Italian regulation which prevented blood donation by those engaged in “homosexual intercourse” was repealed by a decree of the Ministry of Health on the 26th January 2001.

        Now, people who have had “sexual intercourse with a high risk of transmission of STIs” are permanently excluded, while persons who have had “occasional sexual intercourse with a risk of transmission of STIs” are excluded for one year.

        Importantly, men who have sex with other men can donate blood if they have not engaged in high-risk activity.

        Italy’s figures for HIV infection via blood donation show the impact of this policy.

        In 1998-9, 24 people were infected with HIV through blood donation in Italy. In 2000-1 that figure fell to 10. In 2002-3 it was 9, in 2004, 4.

        This is partly because of improvements in clinical testing, but we believe it is also because Italy has implemented a new donor screening policy that focuses on safety of sexual practice.

      3. ~ Spain
        In Spain men who have had sex with other men are not necessarily barred or from donating blood.

        And as with Italy, Spain’s policy has not resulted in an increase in HIV infection through blood transfusion.

        Indeed, according to the Spanish Ministry for Health, the number of HIV infections which have occurred through blood donation has steadily decreased since the turn of the century, from 13 in 2001 to 4 in 2003 and 2 each in 2004 and 2005.

        Both Spain and Italy have much larger populations, and a far higher average rate of HIV infection in the general population, than Australia.

        This accounts for the fact they have higher overall HIV infection rates through transfusion.

        But this does not change the fact that infection rates are falling despite, and possibly because of, the country’s new, non-discriminatory blood donation policy.

      4. “A study recently conducted in transfusion centres in Lombardy (Italy) showed no significant increase in the prevalence of HIV in blood donations from MSM before and after 2001”

        2001 being the date when Italy prevented donation on grounds of sexual behaviour not orientation.

        Velati C, Formiatti L, Baruffi L, et al. The risk of HIV transmission by transfusion in Italy does not increase after the abolition of ban on blood donations from homosexual men. Vox Sang. 2007;93(Suppl.1):3A-S02-4.

  7. Some clarity on current blood donation regimes elsewhere globally: (no evidence of any increase risk in the reports I have read in any of these countries):

    Spain, Italy, Poland, Latvia and Germany do not mention men who have had sexual contact with other men (MSM) in their screening criteria, only risky sexual behavior. In South Africa, MSM individuals are deferred from donating for six months from the date of last contact. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Hungary and Japan all have a one-year deferral.

    New Zealand are one of a number of countries that are also examining their regulations with a view to having restrictions based on scientific clinical risk rather than stigma.

  8. Interesting that once the evidence is given re no increase in risk … those who wish to uphold orientation based discrimination go silent …

    1. Spanner1960 7 Jan 2012, 6:33pm

      Just an old post now.
      Your statistics still prove nothing, as the screening criteria vary from case to case.
      on top of that, we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, so it demonstrates that sexual health, promiscuity and education can vary from country to country. What might be good in Spain may not be applicable here.

      I say it again, do you want to be the one to apologise if you have got your figures wrong?
      You see it as victimisation, I see it as common sense, but either way in the grand scheme of things it doesnt actually matter if gay men can donate or not. Life is not always fair, live with it.

      1. The statistics prove that after bringing in a protocol whereby restriction is based on risk rather than orientation has no impact on transmission of HIV or other blood borne infections via transfusion – thus there is no increased risk to the recipient. Thus they prove that the current protocol in the UK is stigma based and not scientifically based.
        Its not just Spain – its Italy, Germany, Latvia, Poland and others … enough to suggest it is not a local phenomenon.
        As for your red herring of tgeenage pregnancies – hardly relevant to restricting blood donation of gay men. It could be used as an argument to move towards a risk based approach as if there is the amount of unprotected teenage heterosexual sex that is suggested by a large volume of teenage pregnancies then heterosexuals in that age group should also be targetted (which they are not effectively in the current protocol).
        The screening criteria in most of these countries is remarkably similar. The fact remains that …

      2. … when their protocols were altered there was no change in the infection rate (that can only be measured by number of patients infected) before or after the change. The risk has not got worse.

        You mention teenage pregancy which I have addressed. You also mention promiscuity – the current protocols restrict homosexual men who are promiscuous but make no impact on any heterosexual who is promiscuous. A heterosexual could have had sex 360 times in the previous month and still donate.

        Its not the victimisation aspect that I am most concerned by – although there is an element of the protocol being stigma driven. It is more about the lack of honesty and fact in determining the protocol. It is also about the risks inherent in the current system by the number of promiscuous heterosexuals who do donate. I would rather have a safe system, a system based on science – that provides blood when needed – and yes, that is not stigma driven but based on facts.

        1. Spanner1960 8 Jan 2012, 10:49am

          I used the teenage pregnancy stat purely as an analogy; I have no idea of both the HIV rate of gay men, or their promiscuity in other countries, but I would suggest that the differences may well be as dramatic, so we have to base our actions on what happens in the UK, not elsewhere.

          LGBT people refuse to swallow the bitter pill that we are a very high risk group, and far more likely to contract HIV due to anal sex, which although is prevalent in heterosexuals, is far less common. Combined with the fact that heterosexuals have far fewer sexual partners still underlines that fact. A recent statistic showed that the average straight man has 9 sexual partners in a lifetime, and a woman has 4. I know many gay men that have that many in a month or less.

          That said, most people don’t like to advertise their sexual habits, and even less their safety, so simply asking people is just not good enough. Believe it or not, some people have been known to be slightly sparing with the truth.

        2. @Spanner1960

          Dealing with the matter in hand …

          You say you want to keep the current blood testing regime because you feel it is safer

          I have demonstrated that a number of countries have altered their processes and had no deterioration in safety

          Why do you want to keep it the same if safety is not impaired?

          It can only be because you want to prevent gay men from donating … as that is the predominant difference in the two donation regimes …

          Why do you want to maintain that stigma, if safety does not benefit?

  9. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 16 Jun 2012, 9:55am

    I would definitely say that there is a lack of honesty with the blood donation service. I’m excluded from donating for three reasons: I’m under the weight limit, my (monogamous) partner had a boyfriend ten years ago, and because I have ME.

    When I asked why I was banned due to the ME, I was told that it’s for my safety rather than the safety of the recipient, that I might not be well enough to cope with losing the blood. So then I asked whether, if I recovered in the future, I’d then be allowed to donate. No, it’s a lifetime ban. (And it damn well should be, it’s one of the most disabling medical conditions in existence and they still have no idea how contagious it is.) In other words, the first reason they gave me was dishonest.

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