UK Politics

End ban on gay blood donors, says MP

Blood donation Image copyright Thinkstock

The government must change the "prejudiced and illogical rules" which ban sexually-active gay men from giving blood, a Conservative MP has said.

At the moment, homosexual men cannot donate blood unless they have been celibate for 12 months.

Former government whip Michael Fabricant told BBC Radio 4's The World at One the ban is "skewed, unfair and medically illogical".

But a government adviser said the rule was needed for the safety of blood.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Fabricant is MP for Lichfield

Mr Fabricant told Radio 4 the ban was unfair because a promiscuous straight person who was having unsafe sex was allowed to give blood but a gay man with a single partner was banned.

He said the ban was "prejudiced", "imbalanced" and "old-fashioned".

He said if the UK wanted to be "totally safe", then "neither straight people nor gay people who have had unsafe sex should give blood within 12 months".

"Other countries also have safe blood transfusion services and they have moved on. Sadly in England we haven't."

But his argument was countered by the chairman of the government's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs.

Prof John Forsythe said the restrictions were not discriminatory but based on science.

He told the programme that in the UK, gay men have a statistically higher risk of acquiring blood-born infection.

"So if you take blood from that group then of course there is a higher risk of that blood containing infection and having the chance to be passed on," he went on.

"The safety of blood must be paramount. That is absolutely a touchstone. But we are aware of the balance that there needs to be. We still keep the situation under review."

He rejected Mr Fabricant's claim that the system is old-fashioned, saying when the deferral period was reduced to a year, other countries followed suit.