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The blood debate continues

By Monday 16 February 2009Gay, Health, Thinking

I recently read this Pink News article entitled “Government defends ban on gay men giving blood”.

Ms Primarolo, the Minister of State for Public Health, said:

“Current policy excludes men who have ever had sex with men, whatever their sexual orientation, from blood donation.

“The United Kingdom adopts a highly precautionary approach to blood safety.

“The guiding principle is that if the best available evidence shows that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a course of action will improve the safety of the blood, this action should be taken.

“The Department is committed to regularly reviewing this evidence, and has asked its expert advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs to do this in 2009.”
(from: Pink News Last accessed: 12th February 09)

So let’s look at the debate For & Against


  • The National Blood Service (NBS) test the blood for HIV and other infections anyway.
  • There have been massive HIV education and safe sex initiatives nationally aimed at the gay community generally as well as specific ones aimed at men who have sex with men. (This is easily visable if you walk in to any gay bar – all will have condoms.)
  • The evidence base that the National Blood Service (NBS) use to justify the ban is out of date. (If you email them – they will send you the related evidence.) In addition to this you can use evidence base to prove almost anything by selecting the evidence that demonstrates what you wish it too.
  • Recently HIV rates have increased and continue to do so in hetrosexuals (see Hetrosexual HIV Cases Show An Increase). Despite this they have not banned Hetrosexuals. This point justifies my next:
  • Hetrosexuals can be as sexually risky as men whom have sex with men.
  • Why a life time ban? What if you are a man that’s had sex with a man but had a HIV (and other STI’s tests) that have all come back negative. These men are still unable to give blood, even though they have been screened as negative (and may not have had sex since).
  • Equality. The Goods and Services Legislation (2007) state that people should not be excluded from services because of their sexual orintation. The NBS is a service and is excluding men that have sex with men (of which a large proporation identify as gay or bisexual) because of the very fact of their sexual orintation.
  • The final reason relates to the fact that there is a storage of blood donors and blood. The NBS is excluding a whole community of people when there is a shortage of both donors and blood. This doesn’t make sense to me. I mean they test the blood (and/or it’s components) anyway.
  • Against

  • The safety of the blood. Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of HIV infection.
  • Men who have sex with men are a minority group. A much smaller community than the mainstream community. Therefore the HIV transmittion is likely to spread through a smaller community quicker as men are more likely to come in to contact with a HIV positive person.
  • Thinking about it I think the NBS are hiding behind the “safety of the blood” statement. They refuse to recognise that as men who have sex with men are a smaller group and as such their rates of HIV transmittion are always going to be higher than that of a much larger community.

    Interesting linka:
    Facts missing in HIV-blood debate
    NBS – Position Statement
    PETER TATCHELL says the ban on gay blood donors is based on homophobic myths that stereotype and demonise gay men.
    NUS – LGBT Donation not discrimination
    My Telegraph – Mike Rouse

    The last link My Telegraph – Mike Rouse, relates to a online petition to the Prime Ministers No. 10 site that I signed (see No. 10 Petitions). A total of 5,234 signatures signed the petition at the time. But I think we didn’t have a massive response as many people in the hetrosexual world are totally unaware of this ban.

    This post demonstrates that there aren’t many reasons against why men who have sex with men giving blood, yet there are many reasons for men who have sex with men to give blood.

    Just food for thought,


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    • Mike says:

      I’m surprised the ban is still in place, given the screenign that takes place and the somewhat blanket exception. As a NHS employee I’m not sure I see similar attitudes replicated elsewhere; I think it may be a knee-jerk reaction to all the failures in the 80s when people got infected after transfusions rather than a homophobicattitude per se – but I suspect it would not stand up to a robust legal challenge. Interesting post…x

    • Sye says:

      The reality is this ban harms the people that the service was set up to save, the people who need blood. If I ever needed a blood transfusion I will -probably- be fine, but there is a risk that the stores will run out on anyone, if I can’t give blood now, they stand the risk of losing someone.

      here’s me getting all moral high-groundish, to be honest if I could give blood, they would have to pay me, I’m scared of needles, and have them only when I really REALLY need them. Someone once said to me “just don’t tell them your gay’, which doesn’t make sense, why willingly break a rule of an organisation which HINDERS the organisations cause, I feel bad that they are short of blood but all I have to say to them is, “WAKE UP, HAVE SOME THOUGHT”

    • Antony says:

      First off Stonewall have recently took on the National Blood Service regarding this ban (see Pink News – Stonewall calls for an end to ban on gay men giving blood). About bloody time Stonewall!

      I’ve been trying to raise some awareness about it for years (verbally to anyone that will listen) as has Peter Tatchell who wrote on the topic from 1996 onwards.

      It just annoys me that Stonewall have only just decided to chanllenge it.

      To Mike – I understand the historic context in the 80’s but they have come along way since then! Oh and interesting you used to work for the NHS, so did I.

      To Sye – I’d force you to give it for free! Ha ha, I’d talk you in to it, in return for lunch. We could be blood buddies.

      Oh and if you want to sign a No. 10 Petition about changing the rules you can at: (This is the 2nd one! The first one was not acted up on but only had just over 5, 000 signatures.)

      Hugs to all & rant over,

      A x

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