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Stonewall calls for an end to ban on gay men giving blood

Tony Grew February 16, 2009

The UK’s leading gay rights organisation has called on the National Blood Service to end the ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men.

Stonewall also accused the National Health Service of “passing the buck” on the issue.

Opposition to the ban has been rising for several years.

A petition on the issue is being considered by the Scottish Parliament and the National AIDS Trust formally came out against it last year.

A Stonewall spokesperson told that they held a series of meeting with the NBS before speaking out.

“Stonewall has spent two yeats reviewing this policy with the greatest care,” he said. 

“The safety of the blood supply is of course paramount, but it is our genuine belief that exclusion should be expressed in terms of risky behavour, not sexual orientation.”

The NBS insists it targets sexual behaviour and not sexual orientation, but in effect virgins are the only gay men whose blood will be accepted for donations.

There is increasing pressure for the ban to be lifted in favour of more sophisticated models.

“Stonewall now urges the National Blood Service to change its current restrictions to reflect risk behaviours,” said chief executive Ben Summerskill.

“As it stands, a heterosexual person who has consistently put themselves at risk of exposure to HIV is not given the same lifetime ban as that of a gay man, who has had protected sex just once.

“People wanting to donate blood should be asked the same questions – irrespective of their sexual orientation – that accurately and fairly assess their level of risk of infection. The current system fails to do this.

“Instead, it stigmatises gay men by perpetuating the offensive myth that they cannot be trusted in matters of sexual health.

“In the course of our policy review, Stonewall has been perplexed by the buck-passing in the NHS on this matter.

“We’ll be urging ministers to encourage senior health professionals to take this matter seriously and to fall in line with current practices in Spain, Italy, Australia and New Zealand – none of whom now have a lifetime blanket ban on gay men.

“We’re also mindful that the Anthony Nolan Trust has recently lifted their own ban on bone marrow donations by gay men.”

Last week Health minister Dawn Primarolo told MPs:

“Current policy excludes men who have ever had sex with men, whatever their sexual orientation, from blood donation.

“The United Kingdom adopts a highly precautionary approach to blood safety.

“The guiding principle is that if the best available evidence shows that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a course of action will improve the safety of the blood, this action should be taken.

“The Department is committed to regularly reviewing this evidence, and has asked its expert advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs to do this in 2009.”

The NBS has said that while safer sex through the use of condoms does reduce the transmission of infections, it cannot eliminate the risk altogether.

“The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate,” the NBS told

“The policy would only be changed on the basis of clear evidence that patients would not be put at jeopardy. In addition, scientific advances in virus testing and inactivation are monitored.”

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