Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures

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Have you ever donated blood? If so, well done, you should be very proud. You’re a lifesaver, a hero, and all the remaining clichés. Fundamentally – you did something good. You may just have saved a life.But many willing and healthy donors, are blocked from helping others. All due to one question – Are you a man who has ever had oral or anal sex with a man, with or without a condom?
In the United Kingdom, men have previously been barred from donating blood, if they have slept with another man (MSM). That includes oral and anal sex, and with or without a condom. This was due to the supposed increased risk of HIVin gay men.However, the winds of change are blowing in the National Blood Service. As of the 7th of November, the total-ban will be lifted, to be replaced with a 12 month deferral. Only men who have had sex with a man in the last 12 months will be prohibited from having sex.———————

It used to be that a man who had had sex with another man was totally banned from giving blood – this rule was instigated in response to the emergence of HIV/AIDs. At that point, it was more prevalent in the gay community (lack of condom use, ease of transmission through anal sex, higher drug use, promiscuity and others are all possible cited reasons). Indeed, it used to be called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) in the 1980s.

Now however, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (MSBTO) has been under pressure to recognise the fact that diseases such as HIV are not confined or certain in homosexual couples. They are also prevalent in heterosexual couples. They are being forced to realise that a total ban does not work.

While the total ban has been removed, a 12-month ‘ban’ (they call it a “deferral”) after having had homosexual sex is still in place. This is supposedly due to the fact that, instead of HIV, hepatitis B “can remain undetectable in donated blood for up to a year in some cases, and that gay and bisexual men, as a group, remain at a higher risk of carrying the disease (and other blood-borne illnesses such as HIV) than the general population.”

MSBTO claims that the 12-month deferral is in order for Hepatitis B to show itself – however, there is no certainty that this would help – after all, “HIV, Hep B and Hep C don’t magically go away after 12 months”. There should be a requirement for a Hep B test, surely?The only way to keep donations safe is to test blood, on an individual basis, instead of wholly blocking an entire demographic from donating. But… this is already done.Yes, all this should be academic – all blood donations are tested for HIV, Hepatitits B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and Human T-lymphotropic virus(HTLV). If you’ve ever donated blood, you’ll notice that small vials are drawn off before he main donation is taken. These are tested for all these diseases. Every time.If the testing is done every time, then where does the risk of allowing gay men to donate?

Back to that quote. According to MSBTO, it’s because Hepatitis B can “remain undetectable” for those 12 months. But there is still no evidence to show that straight people cannot be left in the same situation. Efffectively, MSBTO seems to be saying that while gay people need to not donate for 12 months because Hepatitis B may be in their system, but we can’t test for it, straight people will never have this problem. That’s right, never. Because, otherwise, we’d ban ANYONE who has had sex from donating for a year. Star Trek geeks aside, that would greatly reduce the possible pool of donors. So we don’t prevent straight people from donating for 12 months, regardless of sexual activity.

By this point, you may be feeling confused. That’s OK, it’s perfectly natural. Because, frankly, MSBTO and the National Blood Service’s refusal to accept blood from gay men as a block, is confusing. It’s illogical. It’s discriminatory.

It’s is this because it rests on one basic assumption. Gay men are more promiscuous, and have more unsafe sex, than straight men and women. It also seems to assume that gay men just don’t use condoms. And that all straight men do.

Gay men who use a condom are not high-risk. Straight men who do not use a condom are high-risk. Such simple and logical statements are being ignored by MSBTO by keeping this effective ban in place.

And an effective ban on gay men it is.

Unless a gay man has no sex fora  year, he cannot give blood. Bisexual men can (by only sleeping with women…even without a condom) for a year. Bi-curious men can if it was “just that one time in college”, more than a year ago. But gay men who are in long-term relations, in committed relationships, who are in monogamous relationships, are still banned from donating.

Even if they use a condom.

Because of a fundamental assumption – gay men are riskier than straight men.

Even is Adam and Steve here have not slept with anyone else, and use a condom, and are both tested regularly. Because, clearly… what, precisely? One of them must be cheating, because it’s impossible for gay men to be monogamous?

It ignores the fact that the “high-risk” sex is being had by promiscuous people, with multiple partners, who frequently have unprotected sex, without a condom.

This person is not exclusively gay. This person could be any one of us, male or female, gay or straight.

That is why everyone must be tested for HIV, for Hepatitis B, and for other dieases. That’s why everyone IS tested. And if anyone has had such sex, then they should be prevented from donating blood until being tested for the whole range of diseases. Regardless of who they want to sleep with.

It should be based on how they sleep with them. On precaution, responsibility and safety.