Scottish politicians back removal of gay blood ban

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An MEP has questioned why the National Blood Service is importing blood from countries where gay men can donate while banning any man in Britain who has ever had sex with another man from giving blood.

A petition is being prepared for submission to the Scottish Parliament calling for a repeal to the ban the prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood in the UK.

Rob McDowall, the creator of the petition, has received support from Tory and SNP MEPs.

Mr McDowall has been advised that the petition will be presented before the parliament’s Petitions Committee on 15th April and he may be called to give oral evidence.

The petition has been supported by MSP Ross Finnie, member for the West of Scotland.

Mr Finnie has submitted a series of questions to the Scottish Executive’s Health minister asking her to seek a review of the EU blood directives that prevent gay and bisexual men from giving blood in Scotland.

Mr McDowall said that his petition has received support from members of the European Parliament.

Alyn Smith, a Scottish Nationalist MEP, said:

“For my part I would be supportive of any moves to broaden the pool of blood donors to as large a group as possible.

“I would think that lifting the ban is in all our interests for a number of reasons.”

A spokesperson for Conservative MEP Straun Stevenson said that there did appear to be discrimination in the criteria used by the Scottish Blood Service.

“The point they make is that to take samples from a group of ‘high-risk’ donors would be too dangerous, especially when the blood would be distributed to many recipients.

“Having said that, this does not explain why the National Blood Service accepts blood from Australia, who do in fact allow gay donors to give blood.”

Mr Mc Dowall told

“Being gay doesn’t prevent me from paying tax, using public transport or working in a responsible position, full time, so why should it prevent me from giving the gift of life?

“The culture of binge drinking, multiple sexual partners and the acceptance of “the male player” stereotype is all playing part in the massive increase of HIV and AIDS amongst the heterosexual community.”

The Blood Transfusion Service maintains that it is not a question of being gay or bisexual but the risk involved.

“In 2005, more than 2500 HIV infections were newly diagnosed in men who had sex with men,” Gerard Gogarty, Head of Service Quality at the National Blood Service, wrote to Mr Stevenson’s office.

“(that is) the is the largest annual number reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more than 25 years ago, and is clear evidence as a group to be at an increased risk of acquiring HIV and a number of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), many of which are carried in the blood.

“It is specific behaviours, which place some people to be at increased risk of HIV infection and for gay men this can be up to 10 times higher, but is much less amongst men and women in heterosexual relationships even after sex with a third party who is at higher risk of infection.

“However, it is not practical to expect donor session staff to be able to differentiate between lower or higher risk behaviours, so all men who have had sex with other men have to be excluded.”

Mr Gogarty pointed out that the blood transfusion services were excluded from the Sexual Orientation Regulations, allowing them to continue to discriminate against gay men.

“The legal position of this exclusion policy was addressed last year. According to Section 28 of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ‘it is not unlawful for a blood service to refuse to accept a donation of a person’s blood where that refusal is determined by an assessment of risk to the public based on – clinical, epidemiological data obtained from a source on which it was reasonable to rely’; such as the HPA,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, the Department of Health has decided the policy is compliant with the Human Rights Act 1998, and that it is justified in the interests of blood safety because the overriding consideration is the right of recipients to receive safe blood.”

Mr McDowall has set up a group on the Bebo social networking site to publicise his cause and there is also a group on Facebook entitled Donation not Discrimination.

“The NBS policy in the UK is discriminatory, offensive and outdated,” he said.

“More work should be put into creating a behavioural profile of each individual donor and taking individual sexual behaviour and habits into consideration. Not a blanket ban, that, is not the answer to the massive shortage in blood stocks.”

If you would like to sign the petition you can do so here.