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Blood without bias

07 May 2020

GMBWSW Shout! members are looking to change the outdated law that prohibits gay men from donating blood withing 3 months of having sexual intercourse

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By Alex Evans

 

Did you know that if you’re a gay/bisexual man, under UK Law currently you can only donate blood if you have abstained from sexual activity for a minimum of three months?

Well, this is the case being faced by gay/bisexual men up and down the country who wish to help the Blood Service maintain their stocks. Or more recently, contribute to the COVID-19 plasma trials.

Where has this ban come from though? What’s the purpose of it?

HIV has become a chronic, manageable condition, as opposed to the death sentence it once was.

In the 1980s with the advent of the newly identified and fatal HIV virus, the government of the time had a knee jerk reaction, in the interest of protecting public health. The result of this was a lifetime ban on homosexual men from donating blood. This was due to the virus originally being believed only to infect gay men and was unjustly dubbed the ‘gay plague’ for a while.

With the advances in medical science, we have come to know that the virus is not a pathogen exclusive of homosexuals but one that could infect anyone. Since the 1980s, advances in medicine have also meant that people infected with the virus, will no longer go on to develop AIDS. HIV has become a chronic, manageable condition, as opposed to the death sentence it once was.

The social attitudes towards HIV have changed massively also, with many campaigns today promoting the fact that if a person takes their medication daily, then the virus can be suppressed to levels that make it untransmissible. In short, a HIV positive person, with undetectable levels of virus in their blood CANNOT transmit it to another person. Also, with the availability of PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) here in Wales, people can protect themselves even further from infection. PrEP blocks the virus from infecting special CD4+ immune cells in the body, stopping a person from becoming infected.

With the advances in medical science, we have come to know that the virus is not a pathogen exclusive of homosexuals but one that could infect anyone. 

So, returning to the subject at hand, why do ‘men-who-have-sex-with-men’ exclusively, have to abstain from sexual activity for three months before donating blood?

Well, the answer to that is simple. The law around gay/bisexual men donating blood is based on outdated science. Yes, it is true that the three month window represents the period of time between a person being infected with HIV and the virus being detectable in their blood, however, as we have highlighted earlier in this article, HIV can infect ANYONE yet only gay/bisexual men are subjected to this law.

In a truly equal society based on absolute scientific evidence, everyone should have to abstain from sexual activity for three months before donating blood, given the knowledge on HIV. The fact that this is not the case does beg the question that, in the light of modern scientific evidence, the law is demonstrably discriminatory?

We believe this to be the case. As two of our GMBWSW Shout! committee members, Arron Bevan-John and myself have started a campaign to have the law changed here in Wales, so that gay men do not have to face unnecessary obstacles should they wish to donate blood. The campaign is titled ‘Blood Without Bias Cymru’ and is currently running a petition for debate in the Senedd or Welsh Parliament later this year.

If you wish to help with this campaign there is a petition available online, at the Welsh Government website.

Please follow the campaign, sign the petition and change the law for good here in Wales.

Diolch!

Sign the petition

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