After a discussion with a work colleague regarding the donation of blood and how he still wasn’t able to donate the life changing unit (Yes – He’s Gay!) After being left, shall we say frustrated and furious about the current situation, I decided to have a little look into it.
We’ve all see the campaigns run by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service in order to get you to donate 1 unit of blood – You’ll find them in every town and city up and down the UK. Most individuals donate blood in order to give something back to the people of the community, and you never really know, you might need a unit of blood one day!
Some blood types are in a higher demand that others – did you know that only 8% of the population have O Negative blood! However, this O Negative blood makes up roughly 13% of all blood transfusion requests in hospitals. So you get the picture, individuals need to keep donating that 1 unit of blood in order to keep the cycle going.
Fast Forward: Imagine, you’ve found you nearest blood donation site and you’ve booked a pre appointment to donate that 1 unit of blood they desperately need. You’ve drunk gallons of H20 just like they’ve told you in order to open those veins up. Now you’re about to fill in the questionnaire they’ve presented you with about you as an individual and the lifestyle that you lead. You get to the question – What is your sexuality? Heterosexual, Bisexual or Gay – It shouldn’t make a difference should it, we are in 2019.. You take the plunge and you answer ‘Gay’. Why shouldn’t gay men be able to donate that 1 unit of blood that the Blood service and hospitals so desperately need.. Here’s a bit of background on it:
Before 2011, gay or bisexual men were permanently excluded from giving any form of blood donation, until this changed to a 12 month exclusion following a review of the risks – Meaning you must abstain from any sexual activity for 12 months in order to donate that 1 unit of blood. This change was supported by a major HIV charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Today, gay and bisexual men can now give a blood donation but they have to abstain from any sexual contact with another man for 3 months and as long as they meet the other blood donor criteria they can donate that 1 unit. This was unanimously accepted by the Government in England, Wales and Ireland. This 3 month period is called the window period – essentially it is the length of time it takes for the HIV virus to show up in the body and on any tests that you have done.
However, this topic can be quite controversial and has been debated by numerous individuals. The question is, should gay or bisexual men be able to donate blood if they have not abstained from sexual contact for the required three months but can prove that they have been regularly tested for HIV and found to be negative.
Example, two gay men have been in a committed relationship for 15 years neither have HIV and test regularly, yet they are still unable to donate. This, however does not apply to any heterosexual man, a straight man could have had 15 sexual partners within the last week and still able to donate that 1 unit of blood tomorrow.
The NHS Blood and Transplant service routinely test all donated blood for infections, this includes HIV, Hepatitis B, C and E, Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus and finally syphilis regardless of you gender or sexual preference, so why is it still so hard in the 21st Century for gay or bisexual men to donate blood?
I’m lucky enough not to have faced the stigma of being a gay or bisexual man that wants to give something back and wants to donate a unit of blood in order to save someone’s life. We have to keep pushing and working towards changing the rules on this process. The Terrence Higgins Trust is still working towards changing the rules on how gay and bisexual donate blood. As well as, GMB Trade union is campaigning for LGBT and the right for blood donation across Wales and England for all its members.
If you want any advice on this you can visit the Terrence Higgins Trust at: https://www.tht.org.uk/ – They offer services via online, telephone and post. Services can include HIV self-testing kits, PrEP access fund and a HIV forum. Or more importantly – Talk to someone. Someone you trust, someone close to you or talk to your GP. It doesn’t matter who, if you think you’re at risk then don’t suffer in silence.