Donate Blood – Unless You’re Gay
If you like listening to music on Spotify, but don’t pay the minimum £4.99 subscription fee, you’ll almost certainly have encountered the ‘Give Blood’ advert. The advert warns people that blood stocks fall dangerously low during major events such as the Olympic Games, and implores them to give blood. Unless– you’re a homosexual man – in which case the National Blood Service say ‘no thanks’, your blood isn’t suitable for the many people in desperate need of it.
The ban, preventing homosexual males from donating blood (unless they have abstained from sex with a man for twelve months) derives from the statistic that homosexual men possess an increased risk of having HIV. The National Blood Service state that health risk to the patients receiving blood must always put before any concern of being accused of discrimination. But, the shocking truth is: whilst sexually active homosexual men are not permitted to donate blood even if they have only ever had protected sex, there are no restrictions on heterosexual men donating blood, which means that such a candidate could have had unprotected sex hundreds of times. This would put the recipient of their blood at risk of contracting Hepatitis B and Syphilis as well as HIV, yet their blood would be welcomed with a waiting needle. I know whose blood I’d rather take.
A person who is reckless with their sexual health is regarded as less of a risk for blood donation than someone who is careful with it, simply on the basis of their sexuality. Even if it is a medical fact that most contractions of HIV occur amongst gay men, is the blood of a gay man who looks after his sexual health more risky than the blood of a straight man who does not? No, it is not – and thus this ban on homosexual men donating blood is downright discrimination. James*, a homosexual 19 year old male whom I spoke to, stated that when he tried to give blood at a donation session arranged for his College, the nurse remarked loudly enough for those outside the booth to hear: “you’ve had sex with a man – no way”. He hadn’t even come out to his peers yet. Yet the National Blood Service give the impression that gay men should feel privileged that there is the smallest possibility that they could be able to donate blood – if they have not had sex with a man in the past year, (by which point it is a certainty that HIV would be detectable in blood). Up until 2011, a man would only need to have sex with a man once in order to disqualify his blood from ever being acceptable for donation. He would be placed in a category amongst drug users and sex workers as those who are banned from ever being permitted to donate, who are, in terms of blood donation, ‘undesirable’.
But is it really more desirable for people to die than accept the blood of a gay man? It’s 2012: and the National Blood Service need to sort out their priorities. The condemnation which gay men continue to experience over the gay marriage proposals is bad enough, without this discrimination from the NHS, in the last place where you’d expect to find such prejudice. If someone you loved was losing blood, would you deny them the blood that they needed because its owner was black, white, fat, gay? To do so would not be a medical precaution, it would be more akin to Aryan-esque elitism which proposes that some blood is purer than others. Are we living in 2012 or 1942?
*Name has been changed for privacy purposes