Tory MP: ‘Equalising blood laws is the next frontier for UK gay rights’
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant says blanket restrictions preventing gay and bisexual men from giving blood must end.
Writing in The Guardian, the former Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party warned of an urgent need to increase blood donations in the UK.
The MP said: “In January last year, parts of England and Wales came within three days of running out of a blood group. With outdated, illogical and unequal rules for blood donation, such crises are likely to recur.”
He continued: “The rules on blood donation need to be changed to reflect modern medical science.
“Safety for the donor and recipient of blood transfusions must of course be respected, but fairness and equality need to be considered too.”
At present, men who have sex with men (MSM), can only donate if they have not had sex for 12 months or more.
The restrictions include both oral and anal sex and they do not take account of condom use, or individual sexual behaviour.
In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a 12-month deferral, under the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
The deferral period was chosen by SaBTO in part because of Hepatitis B, which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men.
Whilst there is generally a short period between transmission and detection of HIV, there is a small risk of a prolonged period where Hepatitis B is present in the body but cannot be detected.
Campaigners say this issue could be remedied by ensuring all gay and bisexual men are vaccinated against Hep B.
Many sexual health clinics, such as 56 Dean Street in London, already offer Hep B vaccination as routine to gay and bisexual men.
Mr Fabricant said current screening meant the 12-month deferral appeared “outdated”.
He said: “HIV is no longer the killer disease it once was, though it still cannot be cured. But its detection is almost instant, so anyone infected can be prevented from donating blood.
“HIV is not unique to gay men; it is prevalent in straight people too. If a gay man practises safe sex and can prove he does not have HIV, why should he not be allowed to donate?”
The MP added: “Giving blood does not just involve HIV issues – there are concerns about syphilis and hepatitis B too. Hepatitis B does tend to affect the gay community more than other groups and is transmitted in a similar way to HIV. So the logic still stands:
“If a gay man is practising safe sex, why should it be right to ban him from blood donation but not a straight man who has been promiscuous? The logic and the science do not add up.”
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Later this autumn, the MP will table a parliamentary motion calling for “full equality in blood donation” and abolition of the 12-month deferral rule for gay and bisexual men.
A DH spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “The 12-month deferral reflects the heightened risk men who have sex with men have from blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B.
“It allows for the period of time these viruses can go undetected by screening tests and lessens the risk of infection in people who need blood donations.”
The Department of Health also suggested that a fresh review would be premature as SaBTO had issued its recommendations less than three years ago.
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