Senior Tories join cross-party group of MPs piling pressure on health minister to end blood donation ban for gay and bi men
A group of 30 MPs have written a letter to the health minister calling for the blood donation ban on gay and bisexual men to be scrapped.
In the UK, gay and bisexual men must abstain from sex for three months in order to be eligible to donate blood.
The policy was first introduced during the AIDS epidemic and similar measures exist in various countries across the world, including the United States.
Now, Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Green Party MPs have called for the ban to be scrapped and replaced with an individual risk assessment model.
The 30 MPs joined the FreedomToDonate campaign in signing a letter to health minister Helen Whately calling for the three month ban to be scrapped.
‘Many thousands’ of gay and bisexual men are banned from blood donation in the UK.
The letter, which was published on World Blood Donor Day, noted that “many thousands” of gay and bisexual men are still unable to donate blood.
“While those men who may be able to safely donate continue to be excluded, the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) service has stated that the need for donations from young men are vital due to a serious gender imbalance in new donors,” the letter continued.
“Only 41 per cent of new donors were men last year. We, the undersigned, believe that the time has come to review and update the restrictions on blood donor eligibility. It has been two years since NHSBT committed to exploring how more people can safely donate.”
The MPs said that they support FreedomToDonate and LGBT+ groups in advocating for the ban to be scrapped and replaced with “an individualised risk-based assessment model”.
We’re pleased that so many politicians from all parties have acknowledged this and joined us in our call for an individualised risk-based assessment for blood donation.
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The 30 signatories include Conservative MPs Crispin Blunt, Damien Moore, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes; Labour politicians dame Diana Johnson and Kate Osbourne; Liberal Democrats sir Ed Davey, Layla Moran and Jamie Stone; the SNP’s Hannah Bardell and Mhairi Black; and the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Nokes, who is chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said: “As NHS Blood and Transplant calls for thousands of new male donors to secure the blood supply, willing volunteers who could donate safely are being excluded because of a system which fails to treat people as individuals.
“FreedomToDonate are right to call for a blood donation policy which assesses people on their individual risk, rather than their sexuality. This way, those who want to donate and could do so safely would be able to and we could unlock the donors NHS Blood and Transplant needs.”
Some gay and bisexual men have been able to donate blood for the first time due to coronavirus lockdown.
Ethan Spibey, founder of FreedomToDonate, pointed out that many gay and bisexual men are now finding themselves able to donate blood for the first time in their adult lives, as coronavirus lockdown has limited people’s opportunities to have sex.
“The fact that it’s taken a pandemic for gay/bi men to be able to donate blood is patently absurd and we’re pleased that so many politicians from all parties have acknowledged this and joined us in our call for an individualised risk-based assessment for blood donation,” Spibey said.
“Such assessments would not only be fairer, unlocking the potential of thousands of new willing donors, but provide the Blood Service with the male donors they so desperately need, following their call earlier this year for 68,000 new male donors to maintain the blood supply.”