Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blood, Blood, Glorious Blood

I see that the news of handing in of a petition at Holyrood against the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service's policy of refusing blood donations from gay and bi* men simply on the basis of sexual orientation rather than their actual practice has caused a little debate to get started in the Scottish Blogsphere.

I did post about this issue shortly after my Lib Dem colleague in Wales past a motion at their conference seeking to overturn this.

Well Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting was the first to get the debate flowing this week. He confessed quite bravely in his opening paragraph to being a little homophobic, something I see he has since gone into in more depth, before quoting some of printed media's lack of statistics one way or the other as evidence that the SNBTS had a point. He was also big enough when some of this was pointed out in his comments to cede he had a level of ignorance on the issue.

One of his fellow Nats Malc in the Burgh offered his own counter-argument including a personal anecdote from one his gay flatmates from Uni.

I answered a few of Jeff's concerns in his comments but while I feel that a further expansion of them here.

While statistically there are indeed proportionally more gay men than straight men with HIV/AIDS that is only looking at bare statistics without looking at the deeper picture. As I've pointed out the responsibilty should be on practice not orientation. If the SNBTS were to open up donations to gay and bi men, I don't think it would necessarily increase the risk to the blood supply by the amount they cite. Why?

Firstly gay and bisexual men are more aware of their sexual health than the heterosexual community at large. They would therefore be a higher chance that they would already now the state of their blood before considering donating.

There is also a great concern for the health of others within the gay community, it stems from being hit so hard in the 80s by the onslaught of HIV/AIDS. Yes there You look at the number of teenage or unwanted pregnacies to see just how much unsafe sex is going on from an early age in the heterosexual world. By in large a person's first homosexual sexual experience is at a greater age than for heterosexuals. This is partly because of the social stigma still attached to being a gay teenager and probably also due to the lesser opportunity as less of your peers will acknowledge they may have same sex feelings in teenage years than later in life. Therefore there is liable to be a greater level of maturity before embarking on sex with someone of the same gender than with the opposite gender. Of course I acknowledge there are exceptions on both sides.

Of course one of the exceptions is a somewhat fringe and extreme element within the gay community of 'gift givers/takers' who actively seek to pass on or catch the HIV virus through unprotected sex. But they are a very small moniroty that the press like to whip out every so often to increase hysteria.

I feel that by in large as a result of this reasoning that gay or bisexual blood donors would show some level of social responsibilty regarding their ability to give blood. Would not put an adverse strain in the Blood Transfusion Service with unecessary blood testing as these are more than easily available to them now elsewhere. It would be of some sort of benefit to the SNBTS as well as the potential stock could increase quite markedly.

No doubt like Malc in Burgh's sign off on his post 'I look forward to some strong opinions'.

*Indeed the definition would actually include any man who has even only had sex even if only once with another man, even with a condom, even if many years ago and even from which there is no risk of carrying any STI today.

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