There are days I really do despair of this country. True, we more often than not get it right in the end, but the process to get there is so laboriously (and unnecessarily) difficult, filled with baby steps and half-improvements.
Case in point: blood donation. The ban on homosexual men donating blood dates back to the rise of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, and has been a blot on the UK’s equal rights record for years now (by which I mean it has gone beyond a legitimate restriction for the protection of public health). This has partially been lifted now, in that homosexual men can now give blood. As long as they haven’t had sex in the last year.
The National Blood Service seem to constantly be suffering a shortage of donor blood, which if it’s true (which I believe it is) should be a bigger scandal than it presently is. And in light of that, how can a blanket ban on willing donors be appropriate, even from a public health perspective.
I accept that some of you reading this may not have given blood before (and you definitely should), and thus won’t know the specifics of how it works. When you give blood, as well as taking a pint, they take two vials of blood. These are for testing. You see, this no longer being the 1980s, we know that even heterosexual people can be infected with blood diseases. So, even if someone with HIV (for example) gives blood, the infection is identified from the sample vials, and their blood is excluded from the supply before it is introduced.
Now, with this in mind it seems completely paradoxical to me to say that homosexual men can give blood only if they aren’t sexually active. The same doesn’t apply to heterosexual men, who can be as promiscuous as they like and face no discriminatory measures restricting their social involvement. Peter Tatchell wants the ban to be rescinded for homosexual men who use condoms, which I can understand, but since no such restriction exists for heterosexual men, then I still don’t think it’s justified.
So since there doesn’t seem a legitimate public health justification for the ban, why is there such opposition to getting rid of it? Some of it is obvious. Strangely, I myself am a Christian- though admittedly one of those crazy liberal extremist Christians, who believes spreading hatred and discrimination is against the Bible’s teachings. But a lot of the religious rights is strictly against it, backed by such publications as the Daily Mail, which seems to hanker after the “idyllic” era of the 1950s, when homosexuality was illegal and women were relegated to the kitchen.
I don’t know, though. Maybe people are worried that they’ll catch “the gay” from blood donated by a heterosexual. But honestly, who when being pulled from the wreck of a car and rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, would be fretting about the origin of the blood transfusion they’re being given. I might be well be in a sad minority here, but I actually think that saving lives is more important than petty prejudice.