A Parliamentary inquiry has been launched, and will be examining the rules around the rules surrounding blood donations from gay men.
For many years, gay and bisexual men were unable to give blood here in the UK. Now things are slightly improved, as gay men can donate blood, but with one draconian catch – they have to remain abstinent from sex for one year.
Campaigners are arguing that this policy does not fall in line with modern HIV screening technologies, with some of them favouring a system based on individual risk, a system utilised in other countries.
Today, as the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blood Donation conducts an inquiry into the rules, we saw MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald chair an evidence session in Parliament on the issue. The APPG are hoping to inform and provide policy recommendations on the current ruleset for blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
McDonald said: “The APPG will look at how we can increase the blood stock while always maintaining its safety and integrity. There is a body of evidence which shows the 12-month deferral period for Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) donating blood could be reduced to 3 months and we want to explore all restrictions on donation to ensure as many people as possible are able to do this life-saving act. We’re looking forward to taking further evidence later this year.”
There will of course be further sessions, which will continue to compile evidence and produce a report on how the maximum amount of safe blood can be donated.
The APPG investigation into this complex issue began back in March, and is hoping to improve and modernise the rules around blood donation. At the moment, it is based on sexual orientation and not sexual activity. So, in essence, a homosexual or bisexual man who has been practicing safe sex with their partners cannot donate blood, where as a heterosexual man who has not been so stringent on sexual health can donate.
The APPG will also be looking at the current lifetime ban for people who have ever injected drugs or gotten paid for sex.
Hopefully, we can see a policy based upon sexual activity rather than sexual orientation, combined with common sense and modern HIV screenings. A three month wait would be preferable to one year, but there are many strong arguments on the necessity of any abstinence period.