Calls to lift ban on gay men giving blood

Ministers are dragging their heels to end the restriction despite advice from medical experts

Experts have advised the Government to lift a controversial blanket ban on homosexual men giving blood, amid fears of blood shortages as younger donors fail to come forward.

But despite a clear recommendation to lift the ban more than a month ago, ministers are dragging their feet – and experts on the advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissues and organs (Sabto) say they have been warned not to talk about the "politically sensitive" situation.

Figures released for Britain's first National Blood Week, ahead of World Blood Donor day on Tuesday, are expected to show that the pool of donors is at risk of depleting. At present there are 1.7 million people on the UK donor list and the NHS will be pushing for more people to sign up.

A panel of medical experts recommended last month that the ban should be relaxed so that gay men who have not had sex within a 12-month period can donate blood. But ministers have so far declined to endorse the experts' decision.

The new recommendation brings the UK in line with many other countries that already permit homosexuals to make blood donations. Health safety experts advised that the ban on men who have had sex with men was no longer medically justified to protect the blood pool from HIV.

One source on Sabto, who had to remain anonymous as the board was "told to keep quiet until ministers had looked at the recommendations", said its decision to relax the rules came thanks to medical advances. Another expert adviser said: "A lot of things have changed and the technology to monitor blood is now automated and much safer, so the likelihood of HIV getting through is highly unlikely."

For bone marrow transplantation, where the same risks apply, the law on gay and bisexual men has already been relaxed to a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it can take several months for HIV antibodies to show in tests, which is why experts want the extra precaution of a year without sex.

Campaigners say the current guidelines are draconian, unnecessary and breach equality law. However, the Department of Health review of them has been held up as a result of ministerial prevarication.

When initially asked last week, the department insisted it had not yet been given any findings, but later conceded: "The findings of the review will be considered by the relevant health ministers and further information on any resulting changes to current blood donation policies will be made available in due course."

The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who plans to take legal action under equality law if the total ban is not lifted, said: "Blood shortages would be far fewer if more non-risk gay and bisexual men could donate. One year is an improvement on the current lifetime ban but it is still a needlessly long exclusion period. I can only assume the delays are due to serious conflict and disagreement."

Jane Firth, 39, from Staffordshire, was given 18 pints of blood after haemorrhaging during childbirth. "I wouldn't have survived if I hadn't had the blood. My liver and kidneys stopped working. It'd be a good thing if they changed the law. As long as you're fit and healthy, it shouldn't matter if you're gay or straight."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn