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UK to lift lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men

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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.

22 Comments

  • 1. Alan_Eckert  |  September 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I make sure to tell my coworkers why I can't give blood every time they come to work for donations. Just ridiculous.

  • 2. Paul in Minneapolis  |  September 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Since my blood isn't good enough, I assume my organs aren't, either. So when I die, all of my otherwise usable organs will be cremated along with the rest of me (it's spelled out very clearly in all of my legal paperwork).

  • 3. Phillip R  |  September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Well, it's like 2 steps forward and one back. Still progress though.

    I do the same Alan. There are regular blood banks here at work and I ask every time whether I can donate because I'm gay. The first time I was told yes and then was told no when I got there (which I knew would happen). The coworkers who handle the scheduling and such have all been very supportive and empathetic over it every time.

    It's never made a whole lot of sense to me considering that the supplies are tested prior to usage anyways.

  • 4. Ronnie  |  September 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Subscribing & sharing…… I heart Kate Winslet…… <3…Ronnie:

    Kate Winslet Honors Elizabeth Taylor, Doesn't Mind If Son Is Gay http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/09/0

  • 5. Adam Bink  |  September 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Actually, that's somewhat true. As far as I know, hospitals receiving organs from MSM in the past 5 years must be notified of that fact, although I've read that unless there's a definitive positive test for HIV, the organs are used anyway.

    However, MSM are banned from donating other blood products such as bone marrow to, for example, people battling leukemia as my friend recently did.

  • 6. Bose in St. Peter MN  |  September 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    At best, the lifting of the ban on donating is limited to
    * bisexual men in monogamous hetero relationships
    * gay and bi men who, intentionally or inadvertently, have constrained their same-sex genital intimacy
    * now-celibate gay men

    After I became ineligible to donate in the mid-1990s, it took more than a year to be fully removed from the call lists and postcard-reminder mailings, even though I responded to the inquiries directly. It was uncomfortable but worthwhile each time, though… assuring the person that I was committed to the cause, healthy, but forbidden.

    I'm happy to hear that a positive step has been taken. It doesn't need to be perfect or complete to be celebrated.

  • 7. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  September 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Every time we have a blood drive at work and I'm asked to sign up my response is always
    ' Can't…I'm still gay, and the CDC are still Bigots'

  • 8. Ronnie  |  September 8, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Another attack….. This is the America NOM et al is creating & perpetuating….

    3rd Gay Man Attacked In Utah In The Last 2 Weeks http://prideinutah.com/?p=11053

    Gay man attacked at job in American Fork http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52546372-78/nel

    "Early Thursday morning, Cameron Nelson became the third gay Utahn in less than two weeks to report being attacked because of their sexual identity.

    Nelson was on the job at an American Fork hair salon when he said two or three people began beating him up and yelling anti-gay slurs at him.

    The 32-year-old was taking out the garbage at the salon near Center Street and 100 North at 12:45 a.m. when the assault began. Nelson said he is gay and that he believes that was why the attackers, whom he did not know, targeted him."

    (me) But you know, it's the Prop h8 witnesses, supporters & NOM et al whose lives are in "danger" <—BULLSITE!!!
    XI …Ronnie

  • 9. DaveP  |  September 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Is anyone else noticing that the web site is acting weird? When I go to the home page, all the stuff that should appear in the column down the right side of the screen is missing, and only the most recent article (this one) appears on the page. Nothing below it at all. It's only when I click on the 'comments' at the bottom of the story that all the missing stuff appears…. but there is still no way to get to any article besides this one….

  • 10. Gregory in SLC  |  September 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    tx for tip Ronnie…I'll watch for protest/rally probably next week.

  • 11. Bryce  |  September 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Great post! Now, this is a bit off topic, but is anyone else DYING OF SUSPENSE to hear what happens with the video in the Perry case? Seriously. I can't take it anymore.

  • 12. _BK_  |  September 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Yep. Same here. Hopefully it'll all be fixed soon.

  • 13. Warner  |  September 9, 2011 at 12:48 am

    was coming to post this, as I can only see this post unless I click the comments section, and use the side bar.

  • 14. Adam Bink  |  September 9, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Yes, we've been having glitches. Our tech team corrected some things yesterday morning, and I'll pass this along to them.

  • 15. Jon  |  September 9, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Attention gay people: I want your blood :)

    Yes, this is stupid. It should be about HIV, period. Test the damn blood. Gay is not a disease. HIV is a disease. Gay is not a risk factor for HIV. Unsafe sex is a risk factor for HIV.

    Attention homophobes: what gay people want is to get jobs, pay taxes, serve in the military, get married, and donate blood; WHICH ONE OF THOSE DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH?

    That is all.

  • 16. Christian  |  September 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Similar thing with me at school. Often the blood bank or bone marrow folks will run a drive on campus and will try to encourage people to donate. My response always is, "The FDA won't let me donate since I'm gay." Lots of different reactions from volunteers (who are mostly students in it for the free t-shirt or to feel good about volunteering) from knowing about the policy to saying I'm wrong. *shrug* I'd donate if they'd let me be honest about myself.

  • 17. Doug  |  September 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    The problem is anal sex does increase the risk of infection of HIV and there is no test which is 100% accurate for HIV, all test produce false negative results, so testing alone is not enough.

  • 18. StraightSupporter  |  September 10, 2011 at 6:08 am

    If we use this as a reason then: How is a male anally penetrating another male any more of a risk than a male anally penetrating a female. If anal sex increases the risk, then surely a giver of anal intercourse to a female is at equal risk as a giver of anal intercourse to a male, and should be banned. How is a male being anally penetrated by another male any more of a risk than a female anally penetrated by a male. If anal sex increases the risk, surely a female receiver of anal intercourse is at equal risk as a male receiver of anal intercourse, and should be banned. That fact that they are not despite the acts being the same IMHO shows that it is discriminative. Otherwise, the ban would include any male giving anal sex as well as any female receiving anal sex as well.

  • 19. SCUK  |  September 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

    *waves* I'm a bisexual female from the UK, so the ban doesn't affect me (just gave blood yesterday) but have been taking a keen interest in this.

    It's a step forward, definitely. and I'm shocked that the conservative government would relax the rules as much (although I think they were forced into it by the ECHR) but it's still based on prejudice rather than science

    I can understand a waiting period after unprotected sex, as there are still issues in picking up HIV in the blood, but it should be unprotected sex of any kind, not just MSM.
    It's basically saying that gay/bi men in manogamous relationships, or use condoms are more risky than straight guys that sleep around without condoms!

    I love P8TT by the way, I check it regularly! :)

  • 20. Doug  |  September 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Yes a much more logical ban would be on all people who have engaged in unprotected anal sex in the last 12 months or so. This would be a reasonable ban.

  • 21. Eric  |  September 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

    If safety was more important than bigotry, they would draw blood, store it, and then test the donor for HIV after the eclipse period (10-days, in the case of RNA tests). Rather than rely on self reporting and cheap tests with 90-day eclipse periods.

    This whole notion of trusting the donor for self reporting is ridiculous, especially given the low testing rates and high promiscuity among targeted donor groups of heterosexuals.

  • 22. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  November 8, 2011 at 7:42 am

    [...] wrote back in September about the progress in the UK towards a sensible policy on blood donations from MSM (men who have [...]

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