Current Affairs

Tatchell calls for an end to the blood ban on gay men

Jessica Geen November 30, 2009
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Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood to be abolished.

Speaking ahead of World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow, Tatchell said the lifetime ban was based on “stereotyped, irrational, unscientific and homophobic assumptions”.

He calculated that if the ban were to be lifted, the National Blood Service could recoup some of its shortfall in the winter flu season.

Although Terrence Higgins Trust continues to support the ban, a number of other organisations have reconsidered their stance.

National AIDS Trust, Stonewall and the Anthony Nolan Trust have all previously supported the lifetime ban but are now against it.

Tatchell said that GMFA would soon be reconsidering its policy.

The government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is currently undertaking a review of whether the comprehensive ban should remain. It is expected to report back next year.

Tatchell argued: “The lifetime ban is backed by the government, which claims to oppose homophobic discrimination. It is based on the stereotyped, irrational, bigoted and unscientific presumption that the blood of every man who has had oral or anal sex with another man – even just once 40 years ago with a condom – is unsafe. This is nonsense.

“The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe to donate.

“Among those prohibited from donating blood are: gay couples in life-long monogamous relationships, celibate gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men who experimented once with their schoolmates, and males who last had gay sex in the 1960s – over a decade before the HIV pandemic began. Even if men from these groups test HIV-negative, they are banned for life from donating blood. This policy is madness.

“The priority must be to protect the blood supply from infection with HIV. But this can be achieved without a universal ban on all gay and bisexual men.”

Other people excluded under current rules include those who have injected drugs, worked as prostitutes and those who have ever had syphilis, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Temporary exclusions include those who have visited certain parts of the world, or have had sex with someone from certain parts of the world.

Tatchell suggested that the ban on gay and bisexual men should be replaced with “narrow restrictions” on risky donors.

He also called for a ‘safe blood’ education campaign targeted at the LGBT community.

He said: “The only men who should be definitely excluded as donors are those who have had oral or anal sex with a man without a condom in the previous six months and those who have a history of unsafe sex. Most other gay and bisexual men should be accepted as donors, providing their blood tests HIV-negative.

“If the blood service wanted to be ultra cautious, it could exclude all male donors who have had oral or anal sex with a man in the last month and do both a HIV antibody test and a HIV antigen test on all other men who have had oral or anal sex with a man in the preceding six months. This would guarantee that the donated blood posed no risk to its recipients.

“This change of policy would not endanger the blood supply. With these provisos, the blood donated would be safe.”

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