Lib Dem Conference motion proposed by Chris Ward to demand the government go further to protect the blood bank and open it up to responsible gay and bisexual donors.

Activists against the ban on gay blood donations from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats today criticised the new SaBTO conclusions on donor selection for men who have had sex with men (MSM). The announcement comes just over a week before Lib Dem Conference will debate it in Birmingham.

Today, the Advisory Committee for the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs (SaBTO) published recommendations from their review on donor selection that the lifetime ban on gay/bisexual men from donating blood should be lifted and replaced with a 12 month deferral. This essentially means that a man is banned from giving blood for 12 months every time he has sex with another man.

Chris Ward, founder of Lib Dems Against the Blood Ban, said:
“We have campaigned very hard on this within the Lib Dems and it is obvious that the noise we have made over the past two years has forced Ministers to act. Although the new criteria has benefits for men who rarely have sex with men or did so once many years ago, this change does not go far enough. It still bans active gay and bisexual men from donating blood, it still does so on the basis of unscientific criteria. Under these new proposals, a man who has protected sex with a man today will be unable to give blood for 12 months, whereas a heterosexual man who has prolific levels of unprotected sex with a number of women last week can give blood today – there is nothing scientific or logical about that.”

He added, “We demand criteria based on the risk of the individual. The proposed criteria will not protect the blood bank and it is absurd that still no provisions have been made to demand that those who have risky sex must have been tested before they give blood. This is a gay blood ban by any other name.”

New criteria insists that a man who has had anal or oral sex with another man cannot give blood for another 12 months.

Tom King, author of the e-Government petition to end the gay blood ban said:
“Today’s announcement shows that the political pressure being applied is having an effect – not least because the recommendations on MSM donors have been announced ahead of SaBTO’s full review. Whilst a step at 12 month deferral is a step in the right direction, it is still discriminatory and wholly unscientific. On the face of it, it seems the change is a big difference, but realistically for active gay and bisexual men it will be as if the lifetime ban remains.”

He added, “The petition I posted on the Government’s website calls for the current donor screening to be replaced with new scientific criteria based on the risk of an individual’s behaviour and has already attracted thousands of signatures. The final say on this matter rests with the Government and I urge them to abandon outdated prejudice and to press ahead with an evidence-based blood donor policy.”

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