A brief analysis at the rules and regulations of the life saving process of giving blood.
Currently UK guidelines prohibit the donation of blood from men who have sex with men within a 12 month period, regardless of whether condoms are used or not, or whether two men are in a monogamous relationship. The argument provided by the Give Blood website elucidates the fact that “The criteria [to exclude donations from men who have sex with men] are based on complex assessments of risk and must by their nature be based on evidence and statistics that are recorded at a population level. Such an approach results in assessments of certain groups as being at a higher risk than others of carrying blood-borne infections, and can make individuals that are deferred from donation feel they are being placed into a ‘category’ even if they believe their own sexual behaviour and risk-taking would not be a risk to the blood supply.”
The reasoning behind this comes from research by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) who explain that a blood donation system based on individuals’ behaviour and level of risk rather than applying deferrals to groups is not viable stating that there is insufficient evidence available to be able to determine the impact on blood safety of such a system. It is also not certain that all people could objectively assess their own level of risk. So what happens to men who have sex with men then? Are they just unable to give blood? It seems completely ridiculous that two men in a committed, monogamous relationship with each other are unable to give blood when they know that they are not HIV positive (whether through health checks or other reasons), and is particularly insulting when they have been committed to each other for a number of years. Is their only option sexual abstinence if they wish to donate blood? How is it fair that a heterosexual male who has regular one-night stands is able to give blood not knowing himself whether he has contracted HIV or not and a man who is in a monogamous relationship with another man for over a year cannot when he is sure of his HIV status?
The fact that all men who have sex with men are tarnished with the same brush as engaging in higher risk sexual activity due to the assumption that they are unable to have committed relationships is grotesquely unfair. It reflects a disgraceful societal, stereotypical view that men who have sex with men are either individuals who partake in regular one-night stands or who do not engage in any sort of sexual activity. As LGBT+ Officer, I myself fall into this category unable to donate blood when I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for over a year. I will be making sure that the LGBT+ Association focuses on awareness of this issue and lobbies the NUS and Welsh Assembly over this. It is now even more insulting since the passing of the Equal Marriage Bill in July of this year that married male couples are unable to give blood despite having equal status to married heterosexual couples.