Fight against gay and bisexual men being banned from giving blood

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  By Lynn Malone  
 
A 28-year old gay man has spoken out following an MSP’s plea urging the Scottish government to “move on” and let gay and bisexual men donate blood like heterosexuals do.
 
Ian Graham from Glasgow backed calls from East Kilbride MSP Linda Fabiani, who has written to the Scottish government asking them to move beyond the current “interim” one year ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

The same rules for gay donors don’t apply to heterosexual couples, which has led to claims that the deferral policy is unfair and discriminatory.

In a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Ms Fabiani asked the Scottish government to outline their “intentions on further equalising the donation criteria” for men who have sex with men.

The confusion over legislation has led to credible gay men like Mr Graham speaking exclusively to Newsnet Scotland.  The 28 year old said: “I’m gay.  I went along with friends so they could give blood, as I knew they wouldn’t take mine because I was gay.

“The women at the reception told me it wouldn’t be a problem for me.  She never went into great detail as we were on our lunch break so I was under the impression the ban had been lifted.”

The lifetime ban on donating was lifted for gay men in October 2011, requiring them to abstain from sex with another man for 12 months before they would be accepted as a donor.  This was despite a stringent screening and testing regime which successfully stopped any transmission of HIV through blood products since 2002, according to the Scottish government.

Ian, who is an insolvency practitioner in Glasgow, claims he didn’t know about the twelve month ban on sex.

He said: “I enjoy safe sex and never have unprotected sex, as I know the risks.  I am not stupid. Unlike the majority of heterosexuals that don’t like wearing condoms because they ‘don’t like the feeling of them’ I use them and I feel annoyed about this issue.

“I understand that there is a risk of contamination but that is true when taking blood from anyone.  Aids is synonymous with gay, it always has been and always will be, due to a smear campaign by governments.”

“There are a lot of gay men out there with aids, but the same thing can be said for straight men and women too. There are more straight people living with aids in the country than gays, according to facts.

“The screening process is put in place to detect any sign of any diseases and infections.  The only thing this law is doing is preventing patients from getting the blood they need to survive and perpetuating the notion that all gays are dirty,” he added.

The argument comes nearly two years to the day since Ms Fabiani championed a motion at her party conference to condemn the governments’ then deferral rules which described the changes as “wholly inadequate”.

It was a motion that was received with overwhelming support by the gay community.  But despite this the Scottish government has not moved to review the rules or bring forward any proposals for debate, according the SNP MSP.

Ms Fabiani said: “For many, giving blood is seen as a duty and a responsibility.  Gay and bisexual men who practice safer sex shouldn’t be discriminated against.

“There doesn’t seem to be any strong scientific approach to the de-facto blanket ban, and we should look at risk rather than sexuality when deciding who can and who cannot give blood.  Scotland has a great record on equality and this is a further step that our Government can take to give our gay and bisexual men the same rights as anyone else to donate blood.”

Bruce Fraser, who is the Chief Executive of Gay Men’s Health, a charity which aims to promote safe sex, wants greater clarity on the issue.

He told Newsnet Scotland:  “Since we are assured that testing of blood is of such a standard that HIV can be detected by present systems, there doesn’t appear to be any logic behind a blanket ban against gay and bisexual men whose sexual activities do not put them at risk of contracting HIV.

“I would welcome a closer look at how we can move away from illogical inequality whilst maintaining the safety of our blood supplies.”