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Gay and bisexual blood donors ban ‘should be lifted’
A “DISCRIMINATORY” ban which stops some gay and bisexual men giving blood should be lifted, councillors say.
Green councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council say existing restrictions mean potential life-savers are being turned away.
A lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood was lifted in most of the UK in 2011.
However any man who has had sex with another man within the last year is still not allowed to donate.
Experts say it now takes three months for tests to show whether someone is infected with HIV and other serious blood-borne infections and six months for Hepatitis C.
A motion is being tabled at the next city council meeting in July asking for the city to call on the Government to change the rules.
Proposer and city councillor Alexandra Phillips said the 2011 change was welcome but did not go far enough.
She said: “The current rules are still discriminatory and are not backed by analysis of risk.
“Good science would support a six-month window before donating blood after a possible risk, for all donors, on the basis that tests for HIV and Hepatitis C can detect infection within that time.
“The health service desperately needs safe blood donations, but this discrimination bars perfectly healthy men from helping to save lives.
“It is possible to have a safe donor system based on the prevention of harm yet which does not discriminate.”
Fellow councillor Mike Jones, an NHS sexual health adviser, said: “It’s absolutely crucial that blood supplies are safe and there should be proper measures in place to deal with risky individuals.
“But these rules mean in practice the vast majority of healthy gay and bisexual men are prevented from donating.
“The result is we cut the supply of safe blood to the NHS while high-risk heterosexual donors remain free to donate.
“Given that only around 5% of healthy people actually donate blood, rather than discriminating against large sections of the population, it would be far better and fairer to treat donors on a case-by-case basis using precise questions so that those gay and bisexual men who are willing to give blood would answer questions that accurately identify their degree of risk.”
The Department of Health’s advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissue and organs partly justifies the ban because of the higher number of cases of hepatitis B in gay and bisexual men than the rest of the population.
Campaigners say this could be addressed by a targeted vaccination programme.
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