Gay men's health writer Dr George Forgan-Smith explores the implications of the lifting of donation of blood by gay men. Will this change in law lead to change or is is merely a way of placating the equality movement.
Online PR News – 10-September-2011 – – While the lifting of the ban on homosexual males donating blood in the UK has been heralded as a strong step towards reduced discrimination, Dr George Forgan-Smith, gay men's health writer and editor of The Healthy Bear, examines the changes in law and questions if it will make a difference at all.
"While the change is certainly welcomed, it would appear that the stipulation that gay men who wish to donate blood must not have had sex, both protected and unprotected, for 12 months is not only draconian but makes donation of blood by gay men next to impossible."
While most blood born pathogens can be rapidly tested on donated blood, hepatitis B proves to have a prolonged incubation periods of up to 12 months where it can remain undetected. The legislated request for gay men to abstain from oral and anal sexual practices for 12 months represents the hope to avoid hepatitis B infected blood from entering the donated blood pool.
While gay and other men who have sex with men have a high representation of hepatitis B infection in the community this is not uniformly applied to all homosexual males. Indeed there are many gay men living in monogamous long term relationships who would be proud to donate blood however these laws exclude their ability to do so.
In his review of how the new laws will be applied Dr Forgan-Smith questions how gay men living in stable partnerships are viewed as different from their heterosexual counterparts.
"Given that there are effective immunisations now available to prevent hepatitis B infection, surely there must be some flexibility in the law that allows homosexual men who are fully vaccinated to have this extended period free of sex to be reduced. WIth the window periods of pathogens like HIV and hepatitis C being at their longest 3 months, and majority of first world countries using advanced testing able to detect viral particles waiting periods in gay men immune to hepatitis B could be potentially reduced to two to four weeks."
"Given the risk of hepatitis B is also high in particular sectors of the heterosexual community I have to wonder why gay males have been singled out for deferred ability to donate blood. If heterosexuals where asked to refrain from sex for 12 months before being able to donate blood the blood stores world wide would be dangerously low within days."
While Dr Forgan-Smith understands that there does need to be regulation of the donation of blood from particular sectors of the community, by writing the post "UK Lifts Ban on Gay Blood Donations, Or Does It?" he hopes to open conversation that not all gay men are alike and the importance of review, consultation and consideration of previous immunisations are vital steps to increasing equity in the live saving act of donating of blood.