Donating blood is a kind act of humanity. Unless you are gay and in the UK. Britain’s backward medical laws do not allow gay men to donate blood. And as a result, there’s an illegal bank that allows queer men to donate blood.
Yes, there are medical reasons which keep unhealthy people from donating blood. But being queer has nothing to do with it. And yet, men who have sex with men are kept from donating blood. To be able to donate blood, they have to abstain from sex for three months.
UNILAD- Illegal Blood Drive
UNILAD, in partnership with ELVIS as well as a pressure group, FreedomToDonate came together to create a Blood Donation drive. Specifically for queer men. The discrete blood drive was conducted in London on the 23rd of November.
The drive was conducted to highlight how discriminatory the law was. Queer men were now allowed to donate blood. The gay Rugby player, Keegan Hirst was among the first to donate. The blood bank reached capacity in just a day. They collected over 26 pints of blood.
And over 2,300 men who have sex with men pledged digital pints too. As a gesture to show that if they could, they would donate.
The drive also had qualified doctors at hand to help those who registered. Pink News also reported that many people came out of the discrete branch holding the ‘Future Donor’ cards and small marks on their arms. People also showed their support for the initiative on Twitter and also to protest against the donation policy.
Queer Men Not Donating Affects More Than You Think
To maintain blood levels, 1,35,000 new donors are required every year. And since 2014, there has been a 25 percent drop in the men donating.
Pink News also stated, “Blood stocks also tend to fall between December and January according to statistics.”
These are big numbers. Many lives can be saved if these discriminatory laws are lifted. Many campaigners say that the policy is unnecessary. There is no reason to enforce a rule that abstains men from having sex with men for three months in order to donate blood. It is a serious waste of safe blood.
Also, if it is really about HIV, then one must remember, HIV does not discriminate. And the discriminatory law right now targets the queer community as a whole. A simple test could identify if an individual has a virus.
Who Should Be Allowed to Donate Blood?
Organisers say that ‘Anyone who can safely donate blood should be able to.’ And that makes complete sense. Why are the laws discriminating against the queer community? There is no medical reason for abstaining from sex for three months before donating.
The founder of FreedomToDonate, Ethan Spibey, also said,
“Our position is simple – anyone who can safely donate blood should be able to.
“Through our collaboration with UNILAD, we’re aiming to raise awareness of the unfairness in blood donation on a huge scale and demonstrate the incredible potential of those thousands of gay and bi men who could potentially donate through an alternative model.”
Being Gay Is Difficult Enough
Even today, there are laws that are unsupportive of the LGBT+ community. Laws that keep the LGBT+ community from participating equally to the heterosexual community. An ambassador for the campaign, Hirst, notes that “There are still very few professional sportsmen and women who are openly gay. And with more discriminatory laws coming in, it will only become harder for everyone to be who they are.
“People should be empowered to celebrate who they are but this won’t happen if there are policies in place, which discriminate against certain communities.
Hirst also said that his donation of blood is in hope of leading “gay and bisexual men who are safe to donate, being able to do so.”
Blood donation is a serious business. It is vital to ensure that only healthy blood is being collected to save lives. And doctors know that. It is not just HIV, there are many deadly diseases and viruses that people can pass through blood. Dr. Su Brailsford of NHS Blood and Transplant also said that an LGBT+ inclusive initiative is underway. “We’re already working collaboratively with LGBT+ groups on blood donation, through the FAIR steering group, he said.
The group is focused on an evidence-based approach which also ensures medically-based discretion instead of LGBT+ community discrimination. This also means an increase in blood collection.
The ambassador also said,
“We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to donate whilst continuing to ensure the safety of patients remains our number one priority.”
With more than 60,000 signatures already in place, people have been requested to join and support the campaign.