Friday, May 18, 2007

Ban on Gay Men Giving Blood

A few weeks ago I signed yet another petition on the 10 Downing Street website. This one was calling for the ban on gay men donating blood to be over-turned. On the day after International Day Against Homophobia to receive the following reply just summed up why the day is needed and why we can't claim that the UK is quite there with equal rights:

"The Government has a duty to ensure that any rules applied to blood donation by the National Blood Service (NBS) achieve a balance between risk reduction and security of supply. The self exclusion criterion concerning gay men has been reached through a close analysis of the epidemiology of confirmed HIV and Hepatitis B positive tests among blood samples from people donating blood at United Kingdom Blood Service sessions.

The Government has been advised that every year from the analysis of nearly three million donations collected by the United Kingdom and Irish Blood Services, about 40 donations are confirmed to be positive for HIV. Of these, a third to a half are given by men who, following further enquiries by the NBS, reveal that they are gay men. Some are donating for the first time but some have given at least once in the previous two years and tested negative on the previous occasion. These figures indicate that some gay men are still giving blood in spite of the current rules.

Although safer sex campaigns have had an impact, it is still considered that the risk of gay men being infected with HIV remains sufficiently high to include the criterion that they should not donate blood. Unfortunately, this means there will be healthy gay men who would be suitable for giving blood but who are excluded by the rule.

However, it is not practical to expect donor session staff to be able to differentiate between gay men with lower or with higher risk lifestyles, so all gay men have to be excluded."

So - because 0.006% (or 0.0006 - it's 6.666667e-4 for you maths geeks) of blood transfusions are affected approximately 7-10% of the population are stopped from giving blood. And who are the other two-thirds to half of the donors whose blood is contaminated?

This is institutionalised homophobia dealing in ridiculous stereotypes of the worst kind. And its shameful coming from a government which claims to be commited to equality


Tomillo said...

It also seems to me that those gay men who are complying with the restriction, but would otherwise be donating, would tend to be more responsible individuals, as indicated by their conscientiousness in complying with this voluntary and not particularly enforcible rule. So the increase in HIV infected blood donations would be almost negligible - in fact the overall rate of HIV positive donations by gay men would, perforce, decline. The current higher rate is thus artificially inflated by this restriction. That makes any argument about the safety of donations from homosexuals spurious at best! Such exclusionary policies have no place in an educated society! Discrimination against homosexuals is every bit as enlightened as racism and religious discrimination. And, like racist policies of America a generation ago, seem to be supported only by the most unreliable and biased of statistics. Incidence of HIV in a population that has been educated on how to avoid infection are based on risky behavior, not sexual orientation.

Louise said...

This wasn't actually something that I thought about but your argument is spot on

Anonymous said...

I want a ban on male teenagers being charged more for car insurance.

It's sexism AND ageism!

Louise said...

Diddums - that's really a valid comparison isn't?