#NationalGivingBloodDay: how rules discriminate against the LGBT community
Friday the 14th of June was National Giving Blood Day.
Giving blood is an incredibly important thing to do in order to save lives. The Department of Health is advised by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs (SaBTO) to decide who can and cannot donate blood. However, the result has been rather problematic.
Before 2011, men who had sex with other men were completely excluded from being able to give blood; which is problematic considering how many lives are saved by blood donations.
The complete exclusion then changed in 2011 to a 12-month exclusion. Although this is better than a complete ban, it's still irrational and discriminatory to stereotype and exclude people from helping out purely because of their sexuality. They are feeding into the negative stereotype that 'all gay people have HIV' as they completely ignore the fact that most of them probably don't and it's an incredibly harmful stereotype to perpetuate. It wasn't until 2017 that things improved, although there is still evident homophobia within the process proving we still have a long way to go until we reach equality.
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As June is also LGBT Pride Month, the discrimination gay and bisexual men currently face during the blood giving process must be ignored: gay and bisexual men have to abstain from sex for three months before they are able to give blood for fear of spreading HIV. This is ludicrous; all donated blood is tested regardless of who donates it and it also feeds into the stereotype that only gay or bisexual men can acquire HIV. It's important for everyone to use protection and get tested no matter what your sexual preference, yet the giving blood process ignores the risks that heterosexual people also pose to blood donations.
On the other hand, the argument made defending the decision for the three-month time frame is that sometimes the tests cannot pick up on newer infections. This is understandable; there have been problems in the past where patients have been given infected blood and so it is vital that safety precautions are in place, and it is more common in gay or bisexual men than straight people that HIV occurs. However, this proves there is a demand for better technology and testing within the process for giving blood, as HIV can also be found in heterosexual people meaning they cannot be 100% sure of any donation.
One positive thing we can take from this is the improvements from a complete 12-month exclusion. Giving blood saves lives and we shouldn't be turning people away because of their sexuality. Hopefully better testing can be done to be sure that blood is not at risk so that gay or bisexual men are not forced to feel alienated in the way that this process often makes them. Make sure to donate blood in your area if you meet the requirements and do something good today!