Sunday, 10 April 2011

No Excuse for me in 9 years 3xx days

The current blood transfusion service tag line is give blood no excuses. Well it appears that I might just be able to avoid all the excuses at some point over 3,590 days from now, only if I resist the urge to have sex with someone with whom I have same sex attraction for 10 years. Even if I were to only have sex and only safe sex with one man who only has sex with me for that period it won't be good enough for Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

That is not what I've fought for these last 10 years plus!

Indeed why is a women who has had sex with a man who has sex with men allowed to give blood after a 12 months period? Surely making such a 10 year ban on men is sexist on that measure for a start.

What about those of us who have a traceable blood test history going back 10 years or more? We may well have sex with a condom with other men, and we may well have the blood test results that show we are negative to any STI (including HIV) for that period yet we are not allowed to donate.

What about a couple who were civil partnered for 10 years, yes despite the worries of some Daily Mail readers and columnists not all of the civil partnerships from have been annulled from those early days? They have a commitment to each other as much as any heterosexual couple. Yet we are allowing straight people who sleep around (sometimes without protection look at the unwanted pregnancy figures) to give without any checks on their behaviour except if they have paid for sex.

SaBTO says there is a 5% risk of infection 5 years after having man on man sex, this is reduced to 2.5% after 10 years. Now can we come to some reason as to why there is a 2.5-5% chance of infection? Is that group a set that have been regularly tested? I doubt it. Is that a group that routinely practice safer sex (with men or women)? Again I doubt it. Are we sure that of that 2.5-5% who may well have had sex with women in the interim period that they picked up the infection from a man rather than one of their female partners? Now that is a poser.

As Jae Kay says, I don't care what the advise is as long as it's fair. How about "a gender neutral, sexuality neutral filtering process to replace discrimination with a sensible protection of the quality of the donated blood supply"? Will there be a "day when those who practice safe sex need not fear rejection when offering to donate blood"?

Can we look a bit deeper into the science? How come after a test outside "the window" from when I last had sex the doctors can assure me that I'm not going to be be infected yet the SaBTO think I have to wait 9 years and 9 months longer than that window period?

Why does the blood transfusion service deny men who have sex with other men (oral or anal, with or without using a condom) from having sex, yet doesn't ask the same question about heterosexuals? Is it because of cause heterosexuals are allowed to have sex without a condom, because how else would we get more children? Is it too much to ask if they had sex with someone other than their long term partner without a condom in the past 12 months for example? Is it too much to pass safety of donation on practise, that it is easier to ban any man who has sex with another man (same provisions as before) for up to 10 years? Are they trying to turn all gay men who'd like to give blood celibate?

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service Website says:

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) is required, under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, as a public authority, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in carrying out its functions between:
  • persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;
  • men and women generally;
  • persons with a disability and persons without;
  • persons with dependants and persons without.
Moreover, the NIBTS is also required, in carrying out its functions to have due regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.
NIBTS is fully committed to embracing its equality obligations.

Or course elsewhere it says:

Infection is screened for by antibody tests and as it takes the body some time (days to weeks depending on the infection) to form antibodies, there will be a time period when the donor could have the infection but not yet have formed detectable antibodies. This is known as the 'window period'. One way of reducing the window period is to test for direct viral material, called nucleic acid testing. This type of test is available for HIV and HCV. However, in very early HIV or Hepatitis C infection, this test may also be negative.

This is why the donor HealthCheck questionnaire includes important questions on lifestyle, as we cannot rely exclusively on laboratory testing for ensuring the safety of blood.

Of course that HealthCheck questionnaire is not asking equal questions about lifestyle for all the groups covered under section 75 of the Belfast Agreement, signed 13 years ago today. The equality of opportunity from men of a Gay or Bisexual orientation is not the same as everyone else. They are asked a question about sex whether safe or not it makes no difference and there is no similar question asked to men who don't have sex with other men, the paying for sex question is generic, along with tattoos and other needle use (yet all these have a 1 year suspension period).


  1. Good piece, I never knew there was a time bar - I thought it was a lifetime thing - but then, it's a long time since I gave blood (some 18 and a bit year) and a long time since I checked the rules beyond the point of establishing my blood still not welcome.

    So only 7 and a half years to go...

  2. oneexwidow there still is a lifetime ban these are the recommendations for change. Which are still discriminatory no matter how SaBTO and the Department for Health are trying to spin it.