Monday, 24 October 2011

SNP join Lib Dems in saying blood deferral unfair #bloodban

One thing that did emerge from the SNP's conference in Inverness was that they too joined with the Liberal Democrats, while welcoming the progress of the SaBTO report in September, recognising that the one year deferral period for men who have sex with men is wholly inadequate.

Glasgow Cathcart delegate Stewart McDonald said:

"We have a situation where two men in a perfectly safe, healthy sexual relationship are prevented from doing what the Blood Transfusion Service calls 'something amazing': they will be prevented from helping to save lives.

"Most gay men do not have, and never will have HIV. Their blood is screened in the exact same way as everyone else's, and if safe should be donated in the same way as everyone else's. The policy we have just now, I would say, is unfit for purpose. And this is 21st Century Scotland. We can do better than this."

Thankfully unlike here in Northern Ireland the Scottish Health Minister has taken the SaBTO recommended deferral period on board for now. Though I'm not sure 100% what the motion before the delegates at SNP conference called for. Therefore I was disappointed to hear that a Scottish Government spokesman say (emphasis mine):

"While we understand the point, the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs has looked in depth at all the latest scientific evidence in this area, including improvements to blood screening and changes to donation criteria overseas, and recommended these changes on the basis of that evidence. 
"On that basis, the Scottish Government have accepted this expert advice in relation to blood donations in Scotland. 
"These changes will bring the criteria for men who have sex with men into line with other groups who are deferred from blood donation for 12 months due to sexual behaviours, while ensuring every possible step is taken to maintain the safety of our blood supply."

They clearly have not understood the point if they are still saying that the 12 month referral is based on behaviour. The fact is as was argued so well by Stewart at the SNP conference and so many at Lib Dem conference that there are MSM who are in stable relationships, have always practiced safe sex and regularly get their blood checked for STIs and return constant negative results. They are also most likely have taken, or at least been offered, the Hepatitis B and C shots to protect against the longer incubation STIs that SaBTO are most concerned about affecting the blood supply.

There are MSM whose behaviour out there in the world of relationships is exemplary and just what the Blood Transfusion service would like to have as an assurance to the blood supply, yet they are still prevented by giving blood if they are in a full, caring and sexual relationship with a long term partner. All the while a heterosexual man who sleeps around, doesn't always practice safe sex and does not know his sexual history nor taken Hep B and C shots is freely able to give blood.

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