Gay police group wants blood safeguard scrapped

The Gay Police Association (GPA) wants to scrap a longstanding safeguard which prevents blood donations from men who have engaged in medically risky sexual activity with other men.

And they have claimed that the National Blood Service is “homophobic in its archaic position on the life ban for gay men as donors.”

But the Service has responded to the allegation by saying: “The policy is in place for the sole purpose of protecting public health by minimising the risk of transmission of HIV and other blood-borne viruses to patients.”

Increased risk

Keith Thompson, the Service’s national director, has said that sexually active gay men are at an increased risk of acquiring blood-borne sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and syphilis.

Under current guidelines, a man cannot donate blood if he has ever had oral or anal sex with another man (even if he used a condom).

The National Blood Service says that lifting the ban could “result in a fivefold increase in the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the blood supply”.

Reasons for the ban

A position paper from the Service says: “The criteria for blood donors across all of the UK Blood Services are agreed by the Department of Health’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs.

“In order to assure the continued safety of the blood supply, we currently ask those in groups shown to have a particularly high risk of carrying blood-borne viruses not to give blood.

“These include men who have ever had sex with men. The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour (such as anal and oral sex between men), rather than the sexuality of the person wishing to donate.

Disproportionately affected

“There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man or of women who have sex with women.”

The position paper outlines the medical reasons for this policy, including: “While safer sex, through the use of condoms, does reduce the transmission of infections, it cannot eliminate the risk altogether.

“Men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV and account for 63% of HIV diagnoses where the infection was likely to have been acquired in the UK.

Fivefold increase

“Epidemiological evidence in the UK also shows that there has been a significant increase in sexually-transmitted infections which can also be blood-borne, such as hepatitis B and syphilis, among men who have sex with men.

“Between 2002 and 2006, for example, there has been a 117% increase in syphilis infections in men who have sex with men.

“Research shows that completely removing the current exclusion on blood donation from men who have sex with men would result in a fivefold increase in the risk of HIV-infected blood entering the blood supply.”

Complaints upheld

The Gay Police Association attained notoriety five years ago as a result of an offensive advert that claimed that assaults on homosexuals were being carried out by Christians.

The advert, entitled “in the name of the father” and displaying a bible and a bloodstain, provoked numerous complaints and was referred to the Advertising Standards Authority in 2006.

In their ruling, the Authority upheld the complaints that the advert had breached the industry rules on decency and truthfulness and that the GPA had failed to substantiate its claims.

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