Gay Blood Ban

Positive change required

As a guy who likes sucking cock, I found it not only offensive but pretty difficult to answer the National Blood Service’s question: “Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?”

Answering yes to this question results in a lifetime ban from donating blooddonate-blood

For me, mostly it’s the kind of cock that one isn’t born with. Secondly, I know I’m not the kind of man ‘that counts’ to them anyway. Thirdly, I do always use a condom and I really think that should count for something. (A dear friend of mine got herpes as a teenager and that shit lasts forever. No thanks. Really, it’s worth it). Also, women can have cocks too you know.

The NHS, supported by leading AIDS charity Terrance Higgins Trust, says that men who have sex with men (MSM) present a high statistical risk of having HIV and this therefore justifies the lifelong ban on MSM donating blood. They claim that this is not discrimination: “The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour (such as anal and oral sex between men), rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate. There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man nor of women who have sex with women.”

So their justification of why gay men are excluded is not because we’re gay but because we have sex? Nice one.

The truth is: anal sex is a high-risk activity for transmitting HIV, and unprotected oral sex is high-risk for other STIs, such as syphilis or herpes. But it is also true that not all gay men have anal sex, and lots of heterosexual people do. While it may be the case that more men who have sex with men are at risk of contracting HIV, it is not because they have sex with men, but because they have unsafe (or less safe) sex.

So, a question that (actually) doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexuality, but on risky sexual behaviours, would be: do you practice anal sex or unprotected oral sex (regardless of the sex or gender of those involved)?

In their lengthy justification for supporting the ban, THT state: “The Blood Service policy does not imply, nor is it based on the assumption, that all gay men are promiscuous.”

And continues: “not all assumptions are wrong… It is unfortunate that generalisations have to be made and that people have to be categorised and grouped, but we accept that in this instance it was not done in a judgemental or discriminatory fashion.” ahhem.

By assigning people to social categories, rather than dealing with them as individuals, the THT and NBS reinforce negative stereotypes of gay men as promiscuous, dishonest and ‘unclean’. This is institutionalised homophobia, regardless of their claims that it’s not.

To sign a petition to lift the blanket ban on MSM donating blood, go to www.bloodban.co.uk.

For the full explanations given by the NHS and THT, go to:

www.blood.co.uk/pdfdocs/position_statement_exclusion.pdf

www.tht.org.uk/binarylibrary/blloddonationsbypeopleathigherriskofhiv.pdf

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8 Comments

Filed under What's Queer Here?

8 responses to “Gay Blood Ban

  1. Hell yes, though I do find it somewhat amusing that a lot of anti-queer discrimination is based on the assumption that heteros only have vanilla PIV sex. And that that’s safe, on the broad spectrum of sexual acts. When, you know, bigotry is so contagious, and (in terms of STIs) having queer bois suck or fuck my purple silicon variable-speed magic stick is, like, the safest thing ever.

    Then again, fucking bisexual men is only one of so many reasons I haven’t been allowed to give blood. (I also fuck junkies, prostitutes and people with tattoos — oh, so naughty!). The most sensible reason I’ve been given is that I’m under the weight limit, though I can’t understand why they don’t have smaller blood packs for people who can’t donate so much at once.

    Skinny homos have awesome blood, dammit.

    (And yeah, why isn’t “do you practice blood play?” on the list? Or better, “do you play contact sports?”)

  2. maxattitude

    Also, in Australia, if you have been in lock up over night you can’t give blood for 1 year. I think that says an awful lot about the ‘justice’ system.

  3. Richard C

    Hi there, I came across this via the Facebook group on this subject. While I respect anyone’s fight against illogical discrimination, I think the fact that lives are at risk is surely the overriding factor.

    This was on the BBC online site today:

    ‘Rise in UK HIV numbers continues’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7747484.stm

    The article says that gay men account for 41% of new HIV cases. We can debate what percentage of the general population gay men account for, but I think you have to agree that this is wildly disproportionate. BTW that is 2007 – not outdated figures from the 80’s. While some people state correctly (and sadly) that heterosexual cases are increasing, they have doubled since 2003, the risks are not even close to equal.

    Then there is this quote: “Gay men and African people are most likely to have undiagnosed HIV in the UK.”

    The evidence is clear – you are most at risk if you are a man having sex with a man or having sex of any kind in Africa before coming here. Heterosexuals having sex in the UK account for just under 14% of new cases if my calculations are correct.

    While I agree that HIV is most likely to be spread through anal sex, homosexual or heterosexual, we have no way of knowing if this is true from these stats (and I think it would be impractical to get them).

    All this says to me that the NHS blood ban of men who have sex with men is made in the light of the cold, hard evidence. In other words, the exact opposite of prejudice.

    Bottom line: the blood ban protects us ALL and EVERYONE should get themselves tested.

  4. maxattitude

    To Richard,

    What I was trying to draw attention to is that statistics are not objective proof. They are gathered in certain ways, by asking certain questions and then read in certain ways.

    That more gay men are infected is more likely to suggest that more gay men have anal sex. My question is: are those not having man-to-man sex, having anal sex? There is an important question unanswered by the statistics. My criticism is that gay men who do not have anal sex are ostracised from donating blood because they are gay.

    I also contest your statement that “having sex of any kind in Africa” puts one at ‘greatest risk’. As I have already said, sex is engaged in in many different ways, some much more high risk than others, and simply because the event happens in Africa does not (necessarily) place one at higher risk.

    What the evidence is clear about is that anal sex is a high risk activity. What I am suggesting is that anal sex be the deciding factor, not the sex of those involved.

    The blood ban does not protect us, it IS prejudice, and the effects of that prejudice in a wider context seem very likely. But yes indeed, everyone should get tested.

  5. My issue with this ban is the fact that I know plenty of heterosexual women who are just as promiscuous as any man and they engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Additionally, what about the heterosexual males out there who frequent prostitutes?

    My point is this, there are just as many, if not more, heterosexuals who are engaging in risky, unprotected sex and they are free to donate blood at any time.

    This is prejudicial towards gay males. I have never had so much as even a run of the mill STD and I know plenty of other gay men who can say the same. Additionally, I have read plenty of reports from other medical groups who also agree that this ban holds no validity.

  6. maxattitude

    mmm…I’m not that interested in attacking heterosexual women or sex-workers as a defense, or implying that they are ‘dangerous’ in some way. I guess that you are also trying to draw attention to the importance of sexual practice, rather than ‘identity’ or gender and that is fair enough.

  7. Don’t they test it for HIV before it’s donated anyway? Why should it present a risk if the blood is tested? I think the ban is discriminatory.

  8. Yep, try being a sex worker in Australia. we have proven better sexual health than the general population. we have no known case of HIV transferred between sex worker and a client ever. Yet we or anyone who has had sex with us in the last 12 months, is banned from donating blood.

    Im a lesbian. My girlfriend cant donate blood. She has always donated blood in the past.

    Based on PURE discrimination and stereotypes, backed up by ZERO facts, and yet….. everyone thinks its a fair policy.

    ‘just lie if you want to donate blood’ they say. Fuck that.

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