Scottish Parliament to consider gay blood ban

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Scotland’s national LGBT campaigns group has submitted a detailed case to the Scottish Parliament calling for the removal of the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.

On Tuesday the Public Petitions Committee at Hollyrood will reconsider a petition calling on the Scottish Government to review existing guidelines and risk assessment procedures to allow healthy gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

In April the Committee agreed to seek responses to the issues raised in the petition from the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, Joint United Kingdom Blood Transfusion Services and National Institute of Biological Standards and Control Professional Advisory Committee, Advisory Committee for Safety and Blood, Tissues and Organs, Bloodban, Terrence Higgins Trust and the Equality Network.

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

It does not recognise safe sex practices among men who have sex with men (MSM) as safe, despite the rapidly rising HIV infections among heterosexuals.

UK’s National Blood Service (NBS) also bars men who have had sex with other men from donating blood, even if they used a condom.

A statement on their website says: “It is specific behaviours, rather than being gay, which places gay men at increased risk of HIV infection.

“Safer sex will keep most gay men free from infection, however research shows that allowing gay men as a group to donate blood would increase the risk of HIV infected blood entering the blood supply.

“Abolishing the rule for gay men would increase the risk of HIV infected donations entering the blood supply by about five times, and changing the rule to allow gay men to donate one year after they last had sex with another man would increase the risk by 60 per cent.”

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.”

The Equality Network submission to the Scottish Parliament said:

“A man, who has had unprotected sex with a prostitute can give blood after 12 months. A man who has unprotected sex with an intravenous drug user can give blood after 12 months.

“A man who has had unprotected sex abroad in a country which has high rates of HIV can give blood after 12 months.

“A man who has had unprotected sex with a woman he knew to be HIV positive can give blood after 12 months.

“A man who has unprotected sex with a different woman every night of the week, who may herself, have been one, or all of the above, can give blood tomorrow.

“However, a man who has only ever had protected sex with one other man is excluded from donating indefinitely.

“The SNBTS do not allow MSM to give blood because they do not believe that protected gay sex prevents HIV transmission.

“This goes against all scientific, medical, statistical and historical evidence about the virus and the epidemic.”

The Equality Network said they “are not asking for a blood amnesty, we are simply asking the Parliament to urge the Government to have an open and honest discussion with the LGBT community, let’s talk about this issue, let’s face it head on.

“Some people are high risk, the same as some people are not.

“Questions which concentrate on the behaviours and the risk of those behaviours will save lives. Let’s not allow anyone else to suffer due to this ignorance.”

France, Italy and Spain are among EU nations that have removed blanket bans and brought in new rules that focus on risky sexual behaviour.

Even if the Scottish Parliament acts the ban will continue in England and Wales.