The UK lifetime ban on gays giving blood

GH 13050502


Press Association | 14277

The lifetime ban on blood donation by gay men was put in place in the 1980s as a panic response to the spread of Aids and HIV.

Peter Tatchell launched the first campaign against the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors in 1991.

A further concerted campaign to get the ban lifted was launched on February 5, 2008 when Russell Hirst launched the campaign “Bloodban”. Mr Hirst told the BBC:

“I was very shocked when my sister was ill, needed a lot of blood, and I wasn’t allowed to donate blood. I just want to be equal. Everybody should be judged on their personal activities. If a gay man says that he’s had unprotected sex with a man, then he should not give blood for 18 months – but I don’t see why it should be a lifetime ban.”

The National Health Service denied at the time that the ban continued in order to save money. A spokesman for the National Blood Service told the BBC that the ban was in place “for good reason”, and denied there were financial reasons for a ban.

“We ask men who have had sex with men not to give blood because, as a group, they are known to be at an increased risk of acquiring HIV and a number of other sexually transmitted diseases, many of which are carried in the blood. While safer sex, through the use of condoms, can reduce the risk of transmitting infections, it cannot reduce this risk to such low levels as to make it totally risk-free.”

By 2009 the Anthony Nolan Trust had lifted its automatic ban on all donations from gay and bisexual men, taking the view that each individual donor should be assessed on their personal risk factors.

By 2011, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy and Japan had amended their policies on gay men giving blood, following a number of legal challenges in which the medical evidence was subjected to intense scrutiny and found to be inconclusive. There was found to be no appreciable change in the safety of the transfusion blood stock following the changes in arrangements and policies, which considerably weakened the justification for the outright total lifetime banning of blood donations by gay men.

In 2011 following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, the ban was amended rather than lifted. Men who have not had homosexual sex within the past year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria. Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, are still not eligible to donate blood. The UK’s lifetime ban was lifted on 7 November 2011.



One thought on “The UK lifetime ban on gays giving blood

  1. I found and still find the ban infuriating. I gave a couple of gallons before the ban came into effect and I was suddenly labelled “Diseased” for life. I love donating blood, I felt I was doing something useful. Then suddenly, every time the “blood wagon” called at my workplace for donations and I was asked at my desk by some elderly volunteer if I would like to donate I was put in the position of explaining why I would love to but was not allowed to. It’s telling that not one of my (many) work colleagues _ever_ expressed the opinion that the ban was ridiculous and not one of them _ever_ seemed to wonder how I might feel being put into the position of having to explain my sex life in public to a volunteer vampire nurse… to be honest, I don’t think they deserved or deserve my blood! In fact – it makes my blood boil just to think about this.


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