September 8, 2011
By Adam Bink
But it’s not perfect. Take Adam, a 60-year-old who’s been in a 30-year fully monogamous relationship with Steve, his husband, a 59-year-old. Both are HIV-. Both occasionally mix it up between the sheets, like any other couple. Banned. Even if they use condoms or only have oral sex. So in the UK, we essentially go from what we have here in the US, which is a lifetime ban if you’re a male who’s had any sexual contact with another man even once since 1977, to “had MSM contact in the last 12 months? Banned.”
Yet, a 25-year-old promiscuous heterosexual named Mike who has sex with multiple female partners without a condom won’t, according to the gay rights group Stonewall, “be questioned about his behaviour, or even then, excluded.” Risk, not sexual orientation, is the factor that should be determined here, and it still is not. Adam and Steve are not putting the blood supply at risk. Mike is. But Adam and Steve are treated as pariahs. It certainly is a step in the right direction, but it will leave millions of potential donors outside looking in.
I keep a close on this issue here in the US, being a former donor (of several gallons) and an activist on the issue. The FDA and HHS, after doing apparently nothing for a year following last summer’s committee vote to look at revising the lifetime ban here, are finally getting around to launching a study. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that someone like me or my boyfriend or my friends can donate given the UK decision, but we’ll see. My gut says that the objective may be to narrow to a 12-month or 6-month window, as other countries do, and when the sky doesn’t fall, e.g. there isn’t a sudden epidemic of people getting infected through transfusions, then perhaps we’ll shift to a criteria makes sense.