Andy Burnham calls for review of gay blood ban

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Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has called for a review of the ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men donating blood.

Burnham, the shadow health secretary, told the Huffington Post that “sexuality shouldn’t be an issue” in deciding eligibility to donate blood.

He announced to the site that he was supporting the ‘Freedom to Donate’ campaign, which urges the rules to be changed to remove a 12-month deferral period faced by gay and bisexual men.

“I think sexuality really shouldn’t be the issue. The issue is behaviour,” said Mr Burnham.

“Whatever your sexuality, heterosexual, bisexual, gay, if you are living a lifestyle that is risky then that is the issue for me, not the issue about sexuality. If you are in a very stable relationship, where’s the issue? That is where I think the system has got a kind of old fashioned take on it.”

“Obviously you’ve got to do it with expert evidence behind it and of course that has got to be taken into account,” he went on.

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.

The Government has responded to a question from Tory MP Michael Fabricant in June 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.

Earlier this year 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. 

A growing number of MPs from across the political spectrum support a review of the ban.

Mr Burnham earlier this year spoke to PinkNews about faith schools, saying they should not be able to use religion in order to avoid teaching about gay and lesbian issues.

Speaking in a PinkNews interview, the MP for Leigh, who announced his bid for the Labour leadership this year, said he had “no support for” faith schools’ position that they should be able to opt-out of teaching sex and relationships education (SRE).