Currently, in England, men who have had sex with men in the last three months (with or without a condom) can’t donate blood. Women who have had sex with a man who has slept with a man in the last three months also can’t give blood. Ten years ago, men who had sex with men were completely banned from donating blood. That changed in 2011 when men who had sex with men could donate blood if they abstained from sex for a year. The law was adjusted to three months back in 2017 and was welcomed by charities and the NHS.
It was pointed out by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall that although this was an important step, there’s still a long way to go regarding this law. Many gay and bisexual men are still exempt from donating blood. Many other equality charities also suggested that men who are considered low risk (not likely to catch HIV) are still banned from donating blood.
Although the law on gay and bisexual men giving blood has shifted in trending with liberal views on gay rights, many people still aren't happy with the current laws. Essentially, the current law forbids gay and bisexual men, who are in stable and long-term relationships, from giving blood. The fact that these men are low risk and simply won’t catch HIV from having sex with each other doesn't change the fact that they’d have to abstain from sex for three months before they're able to donate blood.
I’m writing this article because of tweets that I’ve recently seen sent to @GiveBloodNHS. This Twitter account is the main handle for NHS blood donation. Naturally, as they do on TV, radio and with posters, they campaign and advertise in order to encourage blood donation. My issue isn't with this NHS Twitter account, my issue is with other Twitter users stating why they can’t give blood.
A typical post from @GiveBloodNHS is something like: ‘Do something amazing! Give blood and save up to three lives.’ This seems like quite an inspiring tweet that would potentially encourage people to give blood. However, as seen below, a lot of people direct their anger towards the NHS because of the current law on gay and bisexual men giving blood. One person said: ‘Shame I’m gay and I can’t due to outdated stigma’. Another said: ‘I’d love to but you still needlessly discriminate against me because I think men are hot…’
My issue isn’t with what these people have to say. I simply find it strange that these people direct their dissatisfaction with the law towards the NHS. It’s understandable that these people are angry due to being unfairly discriminated against due to their sexuality, however, directing this hate towards the NHS is not simply sad but also incredibly pointless. There is nothing the NHS can do about this law. It’s not like they can open up the donation centre one day and rewrite British legislation. Directing these messages towards the NHS is like telling your local Tesco to sell weed. Perhaps people at Tesco would like to sell weed but it would be against the law to do so, and it wouldn't be up to Tesco to change the law regarding the sale of cannabis.
Perhaps this law is still outdated and it discriminates against gay and bisexual men, however, these messages should be directed at the government and the health minister if you want to see the law changed. Directing these messages towards the NHS isn't doing anyone any good.