Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Peter Tatchell: World Aids Day - End the gay blood ban
London – 30 November 2009

Terrence Higgins Trust and Gay Men Fighting Aids urged to support change
“Ban reflects stererotyped, irrational, bigoted and unscientific fears”

“The blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is based on stererotyped, irrational, unscientific and homophobic assumptions,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights group OutRage!

He was speaking to coincide with World Aids Day, Tuesday I December.

An outline of Mr Tatchell’s new draft policy to ease restrictions on blood donations follows below.

“In contrast to the intransigence of the National Blood Service, the Anthony Nolan Trust has lifted its automatic ban on all donations from gay and bisexual men,” Mr Tatchell added.

“The blood service is currently appealing for donors, ahead of the winter flu season. Some of the potential shortfall in the blood supply could be met if the total ban on gay and bisexual donors was lifted.

“In response to protests and criticisms. the government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is currently undertaking a review of whether the comprehensive ban should remain.

“The gay-led charities, Terrence Higgins Trust and Gay Men Fighting Aids, have previously suppprted the ban. THT contiunues to do so. GMFA is expected to soon reconsider its policy.

“We hope that THT and GMFA will soon join the campaign by OutRage!, the National Aids Trust and the National Union of Students to ensure that this sweeping ban is overturned.

“The lifetime ban is backed by the government, which claims to oppose homophobic discrimination. It is based on the stererotyped, irrational, bigoted and unscientific presumption that the blood of every man who has had oral or anal sex with another man – even just once 40 years ago with a condom – is unsafe. This is nonsense.

“The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe to donate.

“Among those prohibited from donating blood are: gay couples in life-long monogamous relationships, celibate gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men who experimented once with their schoolmates, and males who last had gay sex in the 1960s – over a decade before the HIV pandemic began. Even if men from these groups test HIV-negative, they are banned for life from donating blood. This policy is madness.

“The priority must be to protect the blood supply from infection with HIV. But this can be achieved without a universal ban on all gay and bisexual men.

“Other countries have ditched their lifetime exclusion, including New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia. They allow some gay and bisexual men to donate blood, in certain cirumstances.

“Since Spain and Italy ended their total gay ban, the number of HIV infections from contaminated blood donations has fallen. This seems to be because they eased the restrictions and, at the same time, educated the gay community about the new policy. Gay donors responded with care and responsibility.

DRAFT NEW POLICY re gay and bisexual blood donors

“The National Blood Service should replace the lifetime ban with more narrow restrictions focused on risky gay and bisexual donors. This change of policy should go hand-in-hand with a “Safe Blood” education campaign targeted at the LGBT community, to ensure that no one donates blood if they are at risk of HIV and other blood-borne infections.

“The only men who should be definitely excluded as donors are those who have had oral or anal sex with a man without a condom in the previous six months and those who have a history of unsafe sex. Most other gay and bisexual men should be accepted as donors, providing their blood tests HIV-negative.

“If the blood service wanted to be ultra cautious, it could exclude all male donors who have had oral or anal sex with a man in the last month and do both a HIV antibody test and a HIV antigen test on all those who have had oral or anal sex in the preceding six months. This would guarantee that the donated blood posed no risk to its recipients.

“This change of policy would not endanger the blood supply. With these provisos, the blood donated would be safe,” said Mr Tatchell.

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