Thursday, September 08, 2011

Willie Rennie asks Alex Salmond to implement recommendations on ending lifetime gay men blood donation ban

It was the first First Minister's Questions of the new parliamentary session today. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie had asked on Twitter earlier in the day for suggestions for questions. He decided to ask the following:
About an hour go the UK Government's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood should be rescinded. What will the FM do in Scotland to respond to the report? 
Alex Salmond confirmed that the Scottish Government would be accepting the recommendations with the protections the committee suggested be put in place, which are, effectively, that only those men who have not had sex with other men within the last 12 months should be allowed to give blood.

Willie made clear that this wasn't the end of the road:
"This isn't the full equality which many of us have campaigned for but it is a start. Similar bans have been relaxed in countries like Australia, South Africa  Japan and Sweden and the Scottish Bloood Transfusion Service has committed to finding an extra 65000 donors in the next year. The sooner this change is adopted the sooner the service can add to the 100,000 patients it helps with blood transfusions each year and save lives. Will the First Minister personally promote this change and encourage more people to donate blood whatever their sexuality?"

The First Minister didn't seem particularly comfortable talking about this issue to be honest and spent most of his answer talking about safety.

It still doesn't seem right to me that even with these changes I as a heterosexual woman could sleep with a whole stack of men and my blood would be welcome, while a man who's been in a faithful same sex relationship for all his life can't. The conclusions of the committee do seem overly cautious.  It shows that there is still debate to be had on this issue and that the motion on ending the blood ban to be discussed at Liberal Democrat conference is still relevant. It calls for

......blood donations to be subject to the most thorough and advanced screening available to ensure minimal risk of transfusion-transmitted infections. 
Conference resolves to urge the Government to end the outright ban on the MSM group from donating blood; to end the twelve month deferral on female partners of that group; and subsequently to work with medical experts and organisations to ensure adequate criteria and restrictions are put in place that reflect the risk posed by the behaviour of each individual

One of the things I like about Willie is that his commitment to equality is so strong - and he lives out his values. When he was MP for Dunfermline, a lap dancing club opened up in the town (which has, thankfully, now closed) and he was vociferous in his condemnation, saying:
This exploitation of women has no place in a modern outward looking city which is the home of Queen Margaret. I want the owners to recognise that they are not welcome here and should pack up and go home."
If, like me, you missed First Minister's Questions live and forgot to record it, you can watch it here.


Bob said...

Caron. Your blood would be refused if you decided to sleep around with multiple partners. One of the criteria for refusing blood is "If your lifestyle puts you at risk of HIV or hepatitis"
This is quoted from the scottish blood donor website today.
Homosexuals practise anal sex regularly and tend to have more partners so their blood may be rejected on this basis rather than on them being gay per se.

Unknown said...

Bob, anal sex is not an activity confined to gay men and you are making a great deal of assumptions about lifestyle and risk.

The very act of having sex does not bar me as a heterosexual woman from giving blood as it still does for a gay man. That can't be right.

Bob said...

Caron, you initially said... "even with these changes I as a heterosexual woman could sleep with a whole stack of men and my blood would be welcome"
Do you accept that's not true ?

I agree with your updated take on the situation and irrespective of sexuality a decision should be made on lifestyle alone.

Robert said...

I'm one of those given blood in the 1990's who were given non treated blood, I'm clear at the moment but have been warned that the blood I was given was tainted and contaminated , it had not had the heat treatment.

I've been advised a number of people given that blood have in fact died.

So I hope they do test the blood because I can tell you living with this over you is worrying to say the least.

I was given blood from America every year I get my blood tested, I also get it tested if I do not feel well or have the flu or a cold or just have a temp.

And the advise they give me was not to have unprotected sex, I've been married to the same women for 40 years.


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