Today marked a milestone in the campaign to tackle the discriminatory policy which had banned gay men from donating blood. This ‘modern’ policy however, in full knowledge of the latest medical advice, is still fundamentally discriminatory and stops gay and bi-sexual men from donating when they are safe to do so.
The change in policy basically changes a lifetime ban for a gay or bi-sexual man from giving blood to a one year ban. It is clearly a step in the right direction and will undoubtably enable some gay and bi-sexual men from giving blood. At a time of national shortage however, we need every man and women who safely can to donate blood.
As Ben Summerskill the Chief Executive of Stonewall commented, ‘To retain a blanket ban on any man who has had sex with another man in the last year, even if he has only had oral sex, remains disproportionate on the basis of available evidence”. Significantly I would also add to this comment, “even if the sex was protected and with just one partner”. For me this new policy remains fundamentally unacceptable and discriminatory. Let me explain through an example.
A gay man in a monogamous relationship who has only had oral sex with one partner his entire life will still automatically be unable to give blood. This is in contrast to a heterosexual man who has had multiple partners and not worn a condom with any of his partners who will not be questioned about his behaviour, let alone banned.
I would argue that all those who wish to donate blood should be questioned on their sexual behaviour, regardless of their sexuality, and then assessed appropriately. This currently does not happen.
Therefore this blog post ends with a plea. For anyone who fits into the new arbitrary criteria to give blood, please do. Go and give blood for all of those who cannot. People’s lives depend on it.