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I don’t like the Blood Service

6 November 2009 by superlative

I don’t like the Blood Service because it is discriminatory and unfair. I’ve read through all their arguments, and I’ve read why the Terrence Higgins Trust supports their view (albeit accepting that it is discriminatory), but I still don’t like it because it makes me feel like I am inferior because of who I am.

For those of you who don’t know, the Blood Service doesn’t allow gay men to give blood. Ever. We’re banned for life. They don’t phrase it specifically like that, in fact they deliberately make it not about being gay but about sexual behaviour. Otherwise I suspect it would be illegal under equalities legislation. The question they ask you is:
‘Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?’
And if the answer is yes, then you’re out.
You can, however, be a woman who has had oral sex with a man without using a condom, and that’s fine. You can also be a man who has had sex with 300 women in the last year. Even if it was in a back alley after 14 shots of vodka. Not if she gave you a tenner in payment for it though, that makes a whole world of difference.
Their argument, based on their scientific advice, is that by allowing any men who have any kind of sex with men to donate blood, they would greatly increase (by 60% they say) the chance of blood-borne viruses entering the supply. They can’t take that risk, nor can they jeopardise public confidence in the Blood Service.
I can understand why they have to keep patient safety rather than my feelings as an overriding concern. But as a gay man it feels HORRIBLE. They’d rather take blood from a tramp on the street than from me.
Even worse, without wanting to bore you (or enthrall you) with too much detail, the kind of sexual activities I have enjoyed during my life to date could not be classed, in my opinion, as being in any way risky. In fact I’d go as far to say that I’m at less risk than the average person of having contracted HIV. On top of that, I actually know my HIV status, which is more than lots of people can say. I doubt many of my straight friends have ever had an HIV test. But none of that matters. They don’t have the “resources”, they say, to obtain detailed sexual histories from every potential donor, so the kind of sex you’ve had or how recent it was doesn’t matter.
But what of that feeling you have, and that is implied in the adverts, that they always need to people to give blood, they’re crying out for it, and that people would die if you didn’t? Well they don’t care about that either. In fact if pressed, they say “there has been a safe and sufficient blood supply in this country for many years”. Oh, so I don’t need to feel guilt-tripped into giving blood by your adverts after all? Well I wish you’d said, there was me hoping to be a good citizen and “do something amazing today”.
I’m not arguing particularly for a change in policy, although I do note that other European countries take a different view. If I were to argue for it, I suppose it would be that they should consider each person’s individual history, and not impose a fairly arbitrary and harshly-phrased lifetime ban. But I would like them to acknowledge that their policy sucks ass (which would presumably preclude you from giving blood if it’s a man’s ass), and for them to show a bit more sensitivity as they trample over my feelings.

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