National Union of Students backs campaign to end gay blood ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The NUS has backed a campaign calling for the end of the ban on gay blood donation.

Currently, the UK is facing a critical blood shortage due to a 40% drop in blood donation levels – with an estimated 204,000 extra donors to meet demand.

However, regulations in England, Scotland and Wales continue to ban all men who have sex with men (MSM) from giving blood, unless they are celibate for one year after their last sexual encounter.

The ban also affects many women who are married to bisexual men – as the ban also prevents women who have slept with MSM from giving blood.

Until 2011, MSM were permanently banned from giving blood across the UK – but the system was changed in England, Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland continues to maintain a permanent ban, despite admitting it has “no evidence”.

Following the launch of the Freedom to Donate campaign, which aims to introduce a system based on individual risk instead of discriminating against an entire group, as operated in countries including South Africa, Spain and Italy.

The group already has the backing of politicians including Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Tim Farron, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats  – and the National Union of Students has now also backed the campaign.

NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place), Robbiie Young said: “NUS supports a fair blood donation system which is based on an assessment of risky sexual behaviours rather than an individual’s sexual orientation.”

Writing earlier this week, Mr Farron argued: “With blood donation falling massively over the last decade, we literally cannot afford to turn people away on the basis of a confused and judgemental policy that doesn’t fit our needs or sensibilities.

“The current rules are based on assumptions of fixed, binary sex and gender identities that make no sense now, if they ever did, and, as well as being offensive – not just to those affected, but actually, to all of us – it’s frankly stupid to lock out millions of people who are willing and able to help.”