A bloody disgrace: why the gay blood ban is ridiculous

B0006424 Red blood cells;Credit: Annie Cavanagh. Wellcome Images

By Em Gates

I give blood as often as I can, and it is always the same process. Sit and wait, have the nurses eyeball you as you drink a pint of water, sit and wait, endure a personal questionnaire and a finger prick test for iron levels in your blood, sit and wait, and after all that they take you over to the beds to properly start the donation. Monotonously waiting, the thing that gets me through the ordeal is the fact that I am helping to save someone’s life. I’ve been turned away twice due to anaemia, and once had an issue with anti-coagulants which meant that the blood taken from me could only be used for research and not for helping other people. This just shows that they don’t take a sample and pump it into a person straight away, the blood is tested and cared for to make sure it is safe before being given to a patient. They do this for the safety of the person receiving it, and to make sure that the donator is healthy, comfortable, and more importantly, eligible to give. There is no way anything bad from your own blood is going to pass to any other people, purely because of the rules and precautions set in place.

Some of the things you’re quizzed on the first health screening are what countries you have visited, how recent your last piercing or tattoo was, and what illnesses you have had recently. Oddly, despite all of this, the decision of whether you are eligible comes down to when the last time you or someone you had sex with slept with a man. This is the one that always confuses me. The fact that it is so specific to men is not only discriminating and cutting off a large portion of people who are wanting to donate, but it is also setting a stigma towards homosexuality in general, simply implying that the blood of gay men is not wanted. While in some countries there are indefinite deferrals for men who have sex with men, in others there are no prohibitions at all. If there are no issues with the blood donations from people of all sexualities in countries such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal, why is there such strict regulation in the UK?

Biologically, there is no more of a risk of sexually transmitted infections in men than in women. Unprotected sex between all genders draw the same risks, and the fact that anyone who has had sex with a man in the last year is banned from donating blood, it seems to be basing its ‘medical’ opinions on out-dated stigmas and prejudices. If the ruling regarded use of condoms of the donator, or was more inclusive with all sexualities and genders, it wouldn’t seem so out of order, but there is no denying that it seems oddly unfair that one group of people who are ostracised in this way.

Basically, with all of the biological testing conducted on the blood once the donation has taken place, it is really appears as if the legislation rests upon an outdated stigma regarding homosexuality. With a shortage of donors in the UK already, cutting out a significant portion of people is detrimental to the health of the UK. Follow as other countries have, and eliminate the reckless rules to get rid of the dated stigma once and for all.