Wales’ new blood donation rules are not ensuring full equality, according to LGBT+ activists
The new rules are a monumental success for gay and bisexual men in Wales but aren’t going far enough to achieve equality, according to activists.
Wales needs to go further in delivering equality for LGBT+ blood donors, according to Blood Equality Wales.
The call came after the landmark announcement this week that gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships will now be able to donate blood at any time.
However, Alex Bryant-Evans, co-founder of the South Wales-based campaigning group Blood Equality Wales, said: “This is great news for gay and bisexual men who are in monogamous relationships, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Some other groups still facing restrictions include former drug users, sex workers, and men using anti-HIV drugs PEP or PrEP.
Alex asked: “Is there really a greater risk of donating contaminated blood just because they’re taking PrEP or not in a monogamous relationship?”
The group, co-founded by Alex Bryant-Evans and Arron Bevan-John, said they are delighted with the result of their campaign but hope to see complete equality in the near future.
The campaign was set up by Blood Equality Wales four years ago after Alex was asked to leave a blood bank after failing the screening process.
“I came home, and I emailed the health minister and my local assembly member to ask why somebody like me, a gay man, couldn’t donate blood,” he said.
The campaign successfully petitioned for the lifting of a blanket ban in Wales. Blood donors who have had the same sexual partner for more than three months will now be eligible to donate blood, if there is no known exposure to a sexually transmitted infection and they are not using anti-HIV drugs PEP or PrEP.
Wales will welcome a new behaviour-based deferral system to assess potential donors against high-risk sexual behaviour, in an effort to move away from blanket restrictions towards a more personalised risk assessment.
The change will come into effect in summer 2021.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “This announcement will put an end to the discrimination many people in the LGBT+ community have faced.”
However, Alex said: “The ruling is mostly beneficial for gay and bisexual men who are in monogamous relationships.”
“There’s still inequality here but the gap has really closed now,” he said.
In conversation with the First Minister and Blood Equality Wales, LGBT+ activist, Rob Keetch said: “It’s a step in the right direction, we don’t quite have parity yet, but I think that’s the next step.”
Alex asked: “Is there really a greater risk of donating contaminated blood just because they’re taking PreP or not in a monogamous relationship?”
“It’s really about doing further studies and understanding the situation more,” he said.
The co-founders are hopeful that this landmark ruling will open the way for future change to blood donation bans.
“Now we’ve got the yes, if you like, on this particular issue, we’ve got that permission now to push that little bit further for some more rules to be changed,” said Arron.
“We’re not going to hang our flags up yet but it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done,” he said.