Call For End To Ban On Gay Men Giving Blood
28 November 2016, 06:00
A leading human rights lawyer says the ban on gay men donating blood in Scotland "smacks of the dark ages" and deliberately creates stigma.
Aamer Anwar is calling on the rule to be scrapped, while health bosses argue it ensures the safety of blood stocks.
It's as a Heart investigation discovered 77,905 donors have been turned away in the last three years.
That's more than a fifth of the entire number of successful donors.
Some were rejected on personal health grounds, but others were stopped because of the risk of infection.
A UK Government review is looking at possibly changing the rules to allow men in same-sex relationships to donate.
Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said: "The issue of deferral for 12 months of the blood of gay men is outdated, it smacks of the dark ages and I think it deliberately sets out to stigmatise gay men.
"The idea of focusing and targeting blood donations from the homosexual community doesn't make any medical sense.
"At the end of the day, all blood donations are rigorously tested.
"The real issue is potentially one of promiscuity and the lack of safe sex, and that could apply to anyone, whatever their sexuality.
"The sooner this issue is resolved, the better, and it brings us into the 21st century."
Derek Davies was prevented from donating blood after his mother was diagnosed with leukaemia and has since campaigned for a change in the law.
He said: "She needed a special type of white blood cell. When I offered to be a donor, even though it was donating directly from me to my mum, I was denied the right to give blood based on my sexual orientation.
"When somebody so close to you is ill, you feel quite impotent anyway and not able to help, but when you're given an opportunity and you're being denied the right to save your family's life, then that's particularly hard.
"There are a number of gay people who practice safe sex: they should ask the question "do you have risky sex?".
"Don't just discriminate across a huge spectrum of people based on their sexual orientation because that doesn't seem fair."
Moira Carter, Associate Director for Donor Services at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service said: "The evidence is clear that there is still a significant difference in health inequality and the prevalence of HIV in Scotland in men who've had sex with men.
"I know how frustrating it is for those who want to give blood that we're forced to treat them as a homogenous cohort because that's the only evidence we've got.
"As the review progresses, we're working towards how we do it differently to enable more people to give blood more regularly.
"It is all about the risk of exposure. The ideal would be that the health inequalities are tackled and I think we have to tackle all these issues, to continue to improve and make sure that if you're eligible to give blood, you can."
Catherine Sommerville from Stonewall Scotland said: "In terms of being able to secure a reliable blood stock in Scotland, it's absolutely vital that everyone who can give blood is able to do so.
"Many gay and bisexual men feel the issues around blood donation are one of the last remaining real discriminatory areas in our policy in Scotland.
"Being asked quite intrusive questions about your sexual behaviour needs to be done in an equal way.
"Currently, gay and bisexual men are asked questions which are not asked of heterosexual people and that's not seen as acceptable."
Since 2013, 358,103 people have successfully given blood.