Haha, you’re so funny, The Independent.
Most of the major British media outlets this morning are reporting that the “ban on blood donations from gay men is now lifted” (I’m too lazy to link you, just Google it). Unfortunately, these headlines and the government bureaucrats pushing them are flat out lying.
What the British government has done is to reduce the lifetime deferral to a one-year deferral. In other words, if you are gay, you can donate blood as long as you haven’t had oral or anal sex with another man for 12 months. So you can either have an extremely unlucky year, or you can be extremely dedicated, but a one-year deferral remains essentially a lifetime deferral for most men.
Could you imagine the outcry of blood collection agencies created a deferral whereby anyone having unprotected heterosexual sex (either oral, anal or vaginal) couldn’t donate blood for 12 months? Because after all, the risk of HIV transmission in gay men engaging only in protected sex (or monogamous unprotected sex) is exactly the same as the risk of HIV transmission in straight men engaging only in protected straight sex (or monogamous unprotected sex).
More importantly, as I’ve noted here before, blood collection agencies in Canada, the United States and the UK all use the NAT test (or a variation thereof) to detect an HIV infection in a donated united of blood. The NAT test has an effective 100% detection rate for HIV within 14 days of infection.
Put another way, if gay man X is infected with HIV today, the normal testing procedures used to test every single unit of donated blood will detect that infection in 14 days.
These numbers, by the way, come from scientific reports published by the American Red Cross, American Association of Blood Banks and Canadian Blood Services.
So, given all that, explain to me how a one-year ban is based in science any more than a lifetime ban is? The only ban which could be based in science is a 14-day ban - and even then, it would have to be practice based. A straight man having sex with a woman he picked up at a bar, without a condom and without knowing her sexual history (activities which are not exactly infrequent), is exponentially more likely to contract HIV than a gay man engaging in only protected sex, or in unprotected sex in a monogamous relationship.
The worst part of all this (well maybe not the worst part - but definitely a bad part) is not even the science, which I’ve gone over so many times. It’s the fact that the government is abusing it’s position as a shaper of public opinion. By framing this as a ‘victory’ for human rights and human dignity, they devalue the self-worth of gay men, as well as their own moral credibility.