Tory MP Michael Fabricant: Gay blood donor ban ‘makes no scientific sense’

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Tory MP Michael Fabricant has renewed his call for the Government to lift a ban on gay and bi men giving blood if they have had sex with a man in the previous twelve months.

Mr Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield, made the call as it was today announced that the number of people donating blood has fallen 40% in a decade. 

He this week tabled a question to the Department of Health asking: “What progress has been made in comparative research of the incidence of Hepatitis B and HIV infection in the MSM population and the MSM population in civil partnerships or same sex marriages with respect to the safety of blood donation?”

Speaking to PinkNews today, Mr Fabricant said: “The continued delay in lifting the all out ban on sexually active gay people from donating blood is endangering life.  I shall continue to harry the Department of Health on this issue.  Before the election they told me at a crisis meeting that they would initiate research into the prevalence of HIV and Hepatitis in the gay population generally, the married of civil partnered gay population, and compare it with the population as a whole.  After continued questioning by me, they revealed that none of their research is up to date.

“While the issue of contaminated blood must remain the most important factor for the blood donation service, to ban a sizeable proportion of the population from donating blood at a time of national blood shortages without real evidence to support the ban, makes no scientific sense”.

Despite the shortages, gay and bisexual men are still banned from donating blood if they have had sex in the previous twelve months.

In a number of European countries, MSM still face lifetime bans on blood donations under regulations introduced at the height of the AIDS crisis. In the UK, MSM currently face a 12-month deferral period.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in April that it may be justified to indefinitely ban men from giving blood, while hearing the case of a French man who was refused the right to do so.

Though a lifetime ban has been lifted in England, Scotland and Wales, it is not yet abolished across the UK as the Northern Irish DUP refuses to lift the lifetime ban.

Mr Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, introduced a Private Member’s Bill last year calling for the gay blood ban to be removed.

On introducing the bill, Mr Fabricant said: “This still does not make sense.  It cannot be logical that a gay man practising safe sex with a single partner is banned from giving blood while a straight man having unsafe sex with multiple partners can. There is no logic to this and it is unnecessarily discriminatory.”

The Northern Irish Department of Health recently admitted it does not have any evidence to back up maintaining a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood – but successive Democratic Unionist Party Health Ministers have refused to budge on the issue.

The British Government in January said it was considering whether to conduct a study into whether gay or bisexual men in monogamous, same-sex relationships should still have to wait 12 months after having sex to donate blood.