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Introducing The Illegal Blood Bank

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 08 Nov 2019 14:33
Illegal Blood BankIllegal Blood BankUNILAD/unsplash

Each year, an astonishing 1.4 million units of blood are required to meet the needs of patients in England alone.

Unfortunately, huge quantities of varied blood types are being ignored each year because of outdated, discriminatory restrictions, which says that gay or bisexual men can only donate as long as they abstain from sex for three months.

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Working alongside Freedom To Donate, UNILAD is campaigning for the UK Government to remove the three-month deferral period and to introduce a new individualised risk assessment that will assess someone’s sexual behaviour, not their sexual orientation.

We’re opening the Illegal Blood Bank: the first blood bank where gay & bisexual men can donate their blood in protest of this discriminatory rule. It will open on November 23, 2019, at a secret location in London. Qualified medical professionals will take and test the blood and help show how effective the individualised risk assessment is at introducing new, safe blood donors into the system.

The blood will not be used medically in the current system.

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Illegal Blood BankIllegal Blood BankPixabay/rdelarosa0

The NHS Blood and Transplant states the three-month timeframe exists because, while all donations are screened, there is a small chance the tests they carry out to detect blood-borne viruses will not be able to pick up recently acquired infections.

For gay and bisexual men, the three-month deferral period doesn’t take into account or consider much broader behavioural and lifestyle factors, for example, whether a gay or bisexual man is using protection. These factors significantly reduce the risk of carrying and transmitting blood-borne viruses and should be considered for all donors, not just gay or bisexual men, to help ensure all people who can safely donate blood are able to.

Dr Su Brailsford, Consultant in Epidemiology and Health Protection for NHSBT, said:

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We’re already working collaboratively with LGBT+ groups on blood donation, through the FAIR steering group.

This group is using an evidence based approach to explore if a more individualised blood donation risk assessment can be safely and practically introduced, while ensuring the safe supply of blood to patients.

We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to donate while continuing to ensure the safety of patients remains our number one priority.

Illegal Blood BankIllegal Blood BankPixabay/rdelarosa0

Whether it’s blood loss due to road traffic accidents, surgery, cancer, childbirth or a blood condition, there’s a good chance we will at some point rely on the generosity of a complete stranger to help save our life, or the life of someone we know and love.

With a 25% drop in men donating blood over the past five years and a 6% drop in women, the NHS requires 135,000 new donors each year to replace donors who fall ill, get pregnant or any of the other reasons people may not be able to give blood.

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We believe introducing individualised risk assessments and eliminating the three-month deferral period will help reduce discrimination, increase donations from gay and bisexual men and ensure our hospitals receive the quantity and variety of blood they need.

The discrimination ends now.

You can register to become a donor at The Illegal Blood Bank here.

Help us end blood donation discrimination and support our campaign to overturn the outdated law that prevents gay & bi men from donating blood. 

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To find out more about The Illegal Blood Bank, click here

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Blood Without Bias