Lib Dems say 12-month gay blood ban must be lifted

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The Liberal Democrat party has voted to urge the government to go further on removing blood donation restrictions on gay men.

Members at the party’s conference in Birmingham agreed that the new 12-month deferral period is “a ban by any other name”.

Earlier this month, ministers announced that the lifetime ban would be scrapped and gay and bisexual men would be permitted to donate blood if they abstain from sex for 12 months.

Heterosexuals who engage in risky sexual behaviour are not subject to the same restrictions, leading to accusations that the rules are still discriminatory.

Campaigners want sexual behaviour, not orientation, to be the deciding factor in whether individuals can donate blood.

Conference delegates heard that removing the revised ban would result in between one and two million new donors.

According to ePolitix, Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert said: “Millions of men up and down the country could be potential blood donors and many of them wish to help people in need by donating blood.

“They are prevented from doing so by the stigma that all men who have sex with men engage in disproportionally risky behaviour.

“When it comes to donating blood, the safety of those receiving transfusions must always be paramount.

“Rather than issuing blanket bans, decisions should be based on an assessment of the risk which the behaviour of an individual poses regardless of whether they sleep with men or women.”