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Tory and Labour frontbench call for new review of ‘discriminatory’ gay blood ban

Joseph McCormick November 6, 2014
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Tory Energy Minister Amber Rudd and Shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran have called for a fresh review on the restrictions preventing gay and bisexual men from giving blood.

The senior politicians made the remarks in a discussion about Tory MP Michael Fabricant’s campaign for equal blood donation rules on yesterday’s Daily Politics.

At present, men who have sex with men (MSM) can only give blood in England, Wales and Scotland if they have not had sex for 12 months or more.

When asked if the law should change, Ms Rudd replied: “I think it should be clinically led, I think what Michael is suggesting is a good idea, to have a new group of clinicians look at it to see if it should be adapted. I think the idea of separation of anything from gay and straight people is fundamentally wrong, but as long as we can be reassured clinically.”

Asked if “in principle” gay and bisexual men should be able to donate blood if given “the all clear in terms of their health” without a deferral, the Minister replied: “Well even Peter Tatchell has said there should be a period of length before gay men are able to give blood and I think that’s what we’re considering looking at again.”

Margaret Curran, Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary was asked if she agreed with Ms Rudd’s remarks, she replied: “I would broadly agree with that, I think everybody agrees it has to be safe blood, and it’s just about the times for Hepatitis B and such like, but I do actually agree with (Michael’s) fundamental point about the discrimination against gay men.”

In a parliamentary motion last month, Michael Fabricant told the Commons: “How can it be logical that a straight promiscuous man who might have a two different partners each night of the year can donate blood while a gay man in a monogamous loving relationship cannot – unless he has certified that he has been totally celibate for the past year?”

Asked by presenter Jo Coburn if the current situation was discriminatory, Ms Curran said: “It seems like that. I think it’s a legacy of an attempt at safety in the past rather than blatant discrimination but I absolutely take the point about the inconsistencies.”

Ms Rudd added that the inconsistencies are “worrying”.

Yesterday, Mr Fabricant told PinkNews: “I am pleased that Energy Minister Amber Rudd agreed with me on the programme that blood donation by gay people does indeed need to be looked at again by an independent clinical panel. There clearly is no logic to the ban as it stands right now.”

In June, the Department of Health (DH) rejected calls by the Green Party to end the restrictions.

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.

The one-year deferral was chosen by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) in part because of Hepatitis B, which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men.

While there is a four-week window between transmission and detection of HIV, Hepatitis B can take up to a year to be cleared by the body.

Related topics: Bisexual men, blood donation, blood donation ban, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant, England, gay blood ban, gay men, men who have sex with men, Michael Fabricant

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