Comment: blood donation rules changed for equality’s sake

Blood transfusions save lives. Sensible rules about who can and cannot donate blood are there to safeguard the national blood supply. Decisions about who may safely donate blood should be left to medical science, not political lobbying or equality laws.

But it was announced last week that, starting 7 November, the rules on blood donation are set to change. Under the current rules, a man who has ever had sex with another man is not permitted to donate blood. This is because men who have had sex with men (MSM) are at a far greater risk of carrying a blood-borne virus.

This is not a historical risk that has since disappeared. It is still very real. Earlier this year the Health Protection Agency announced that the number of new HIV diagnoses has nearly doubled over the past ten years. The HPA said that numbers are increasing “especially in men who have sex with men”.


In fact there is a European law that legally requires blood services to permanently exclude anyone whose sexual behaviour puts them at high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases that can be transmitted by blood – which is why a survey of blood services in 23 European nations found that MSM were permanently excluded from giving blood in 20 nations.

MSM are not the only people who have been prevented from donating blood. Anyone who has ever worked as a prostitute may never give blood, nor can anyone who has ever injected illegal drugs. Anyone who has an active cold sore may not give blood. Anyone who has had a tattoo or semi-permanent make-up in the last four months may not give blood. Anyone who has received a blood transfusion anywhere in the world since 1 January 1980 may not give blood. The list goes on.

But following lobbying from homosexual campaigners, the ban on active homosexual men giving blood has been overturned by the Government. In particular, campaigners have said the exclusion is unlawful under the sexual orientation regulations, which they themselves lobbied for. The regulations were introduced in 2007 and later incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.

So now homosexual men will be allowed to donate blood, as long as they haven’t had sex with a man in the last twelve months. Even this is not enough for some campaigners. Peter Tatchell wants no deferral period at all.


Until recently, the National Blood Service said allowing MSM to donate blood could “result in a fivefold increase in the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the blood supply”.

The 12-month deferral rule is a huge cave-in to the demands of the homosexual lobby. Earlier this year, it was reported in the media that the Government was considering relaxing the safeguard from a lifetime exclusion to a ten-year deferral period.

As recently as April, experts said that would increase the risk of HIV entering the national blood supply by about 2.5 per cent. The same experts said a five-year deferral period would increase the risk by almost five per cent. So, it is not unreasonable to ask how high is the increase in risk with a 12-month deferment period? The official report into the matter suggested the increased risk could be as high as ten per cent.

But the risks are not that high in the first place, says the committee that recommended the change. It said there have been improvements to the testing and handling of donated blood. However, it also said that changes to equality laws and social attitudes were “reasons to consider change”.


If anyone should be covered by equality laws, it should be the receiver of the blood, not the donor. There has never been any suggestion that blood transfusions have ever been withheld on grounds of race, sex, disability or sexual orientation, and rightly so.

The ‘product’ or ‘service’ provided by the National Blood Service is, well, blood. Who is the beneficiary? It is the patient in need of a transfusion, not the donor. This is, of course, common sense. And it wasn’t an issue until the sexual orientation regulations of 2007 were introduced. After lobbying by homosexual campaigners, we have now arrived at a situation where homosexuals have the right to donate blood regardless of the increased medical risks. This is the Alice-in-wonderland world of the equality agenda.

It’s the same wrong-headedness that affects faith based adoption agencies. The agencies are not there to provide adults with children – that would be to treat children as a ‘product’ or ‘service’. They are there to provide needy children with committed families. It is the children that are the primary beneficiaries. Yet, the sexual orientation regulations say the demands of adults are more important, and so faith-based adoption services that help children to be adopted by married couples have almost been wiped out in England.

Equality laws ought to be about fairness. But it seems that the most vulnerable people are suffering under them. Children in need of adoption by married couples have suffered in the name of equality. Now it is patients in need of safe blood supply. We have to ask: who will be the next to suffer as the equality juggernaut rolls on?

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