Tory MP slams Government for having ‘no research’ supporting gay blood ban

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The Government has responded to a question from a Tory MP to say there has been “no research” to support the ongoing ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

Mr Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield, has campaigned for the ban to be reconsidered. Last week it was announced that the number of people donating blood has fallen 40% in a decade, and the blood donation service could soon be in crisis. 

He 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?”

Today Mr Fabricant shared the response from Health Minister Jane Ellison, who said: “No such comparative research has been undertaken. Public Health England does not collect data on whether an individual is in a same sex relationship or a civil partnership as part of the routine surveillance of acute hepatitis B or HIV, nor as part of routine surveillance in blood donors.”

Mr Fabricant tweeted to say that the ban should be reduced to 6 or 9 months deferral, that it should not apply to monogamous same-sex couples, and that more research was needed, saying there was “no clear basis” for the ongoing ban.

He also got into a spat with gay Labour MP Chris Bryant in the Commons chamber today, as Mr Bryant said he was opposed to lifting the ban.

Mr Fabricant branded him a “gay homophobe”, for which Mr Bryant demanded an apology.

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.