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Blood donor reforms ‘don’t go far enough’

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Blood donation eligibility criteria should be based on individual behaviour, backed by advanced screening, not on sexuality, the Liberal Democrats conference has heard.

Party members passed a motion stating that recently announced changes to the law on blood donation by homosexual men do not go far enough.

Earlier this month the government announced that a lifetime ban on blood donation by homosexual men would be changed from November so that men who had not had sex with a man for 12 months would be able to donate.

However, the Liberal Democrat motion said the restrictions on gay men remained inconsistent with those for other “high risk” groups, such as black African men.

It said the criteria for being eligible to give blood “should be based on the risk posed by the behaviour of the individual, not their membership of a certain societal grouping”.

It also called for each individual blood donation to be subject to “the most sensitive forms of screening available” – for example, antigen testing rather than antibody testing – as is used in some other developed countries to ensure infection risk is “absolutely minimal”.

Speaking in support of the motion, Guildford Liberal Democrat member said Chris Ward said that, while welcome, the new 12 month deferral period was “not scientific” and did not go far enough.

He said: “Some people have stated we are threatening the safety of the blood bank by campaigning for the end of the ban. That assertion is as disingenuous as it is wrong.

“We are not fighting for the right to give blood, we are fighting for a right of a patient to receive it.”

He added: “It is nonsensical to have criteria based on societal groupings when we know exactly how the disease is transmitted and can base it on that instead.”

He said the emphasis of the eligibility criteria should be on “what we do, not who we do it with”.

“We need to shout it out loud till the NHS shouts it out loud. HIV is not a gay disease,” he told delegates.

“This ban has the potential to kill many more people than gay blood ever will,” he added, highlighting the current shortage of blood.

Also speaking in support of the motion, Vauxhall member Martin Chapman said: “In the UK the majority of people diagnosed today with HIV are straight. Two thirds of them happen to be black Africans.

“It would be wrong to ban black people from donating blood. It is also inexcusable therefore to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. Discriminating on race, location or indeed sexuality is wrong.”

“What we need is a scientific approach,” he said. “We need to take a stand to ensure our public health policy, our blood donor policy, is based not on discrimination or stigma but on Liberal values and inclusiveness, science not stigma.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I agree, i think it is inexcusable and discriminatory to prevent gay men from donating blood. If a gay man wanted to donate an organ and was on the organ register, would the organ have to be stored for 12 months before it was used?

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