Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Give Blood a Chance

I'm all for giving our health service a fighting chance to do its job effectively. But last week one of the tools to achieve that turned up outside work. It resulted in my bi-annual ritual embarrassment of somebody at work.

The tool that turned up was the Blood Transfusion van. The embarrassment resulted in why somebody as fit and healthy looking as me was not signed up for a session on said van. Now currently I could have taken an easy option out and cited recent health reasons as the excuse, but I did what I always did and listed the reason for current life-time ban.

Up to about 9 years ago I regularly gave blood as my father and grandfather did before me, and my father continued to do until he contracted the cancer that killed him. However, those 9 years ago what stopped me being able to respond the blatent messages of the Blood Transfusion Service was that my first sexual partner shared something in common with me, their male gender. Thus ended by blood donating days, as I next read through the criteria on my next visit.

Now the blanket ban on gay and bi-sexual men (even those with only one such encounter) giving blood is back on the front-page news and under the microscope again. Partly because due to the shortage of blood here in the UK we now import blood from nations such as Australia where gay men are allowed to give blood and largely because the Welsh Lib Dems recently passed a motion calling for the ban to be lifted. It makes the policy of the National Blood Transfusion service a farce if on one hand they try and rule out what is stereotyped as "high risk" UK citizen donors based solely on sexual orientation rather than sexual practise, which is where the true risk lies. Whilst accepting blood from outwith their own testing where by definition the same group have been allowed to donate.

There is a new lobby group called Blood Ban who have recently been on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio Two. Their site carries links to petitions both national and Scottish to get this anomaly in words and practise resolved and sorted out

The Blood Transfusion Service say on their own website:

Keeping our rules simple

The rule about gay men is clear and simple. You can decide whether it applies to you without the need to discuss your personal life with our staff. The rule is based on an impartial assessment of available evidence. We ask that you observe it for the sake of blood safety.

Yet they are ignoring the rule themselves when they need to import blood to make up the UK shortfall. Surely the time is right to sort out the scare stories of the 1990s from reality. Then my perfectly good blood last tested within 3 months may be able to save someone's life as the adverts keep reminding me.


Steph Ashley said...

You are absolutely right and put (y)our case very well. This is one of the last surviving examples of officially sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals, and that motion passed in Llandudno made me shiver with pride because as part of an organisation who condemn it, my voice is that much louder than when I am shouting on my own.

Malc said...




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