While there is a shortage of available blood supplies in blood banks worldwide, over 40 countries still ban sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating. This ban blocks potential donors either indefinitely, or for a lengthy period of time after they last had sex with another man, even if they practice safe sex in a monogamous relationship. As a response, the Peter Tatchell Foundation has issued a challenge to governments worldwide – screen the blood, not the sexuality.
The hidden camera video shows a security guard using the fictitious Gaydr device to screen heterosexual men on their way into a blood bank. In order to highlight the feeling of exclusion and injustice suffered by gay and bisexual men, the spoof scan informs them that not only are they gay, but are not allowed to donate blood.
The reactions range from horror to humour, disbelief to dismay, with eyes opened about generalisations and sweeping restrictions. For those watching, it should be noted that none of those featured were deterred from donating blood and release forms were signed by all.
Peter Tatchell, director of the foundation, said in an accompanying statement, “These restrictions may have made sense when first enforced in the 1980s at a time when HIV was primarily affecting gay and bisexual men in the West and when HIV testing methods were less accurate. But long ago HIV ceased to be allied to any particular sexual orientation and the testing of donated blood is now very exhaustive and accurate.”
He continued, “It is time that blood banks worldwide focused more on identifying and excluding individuals who’ve engaged in high risk behavior – regardless of whether they are gay or straight – instead of making assumptions that all gay and bisexual men are a high risk of HIV.”
A 2014 study carried out by the University of California estimated that lifting the restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men in the US alone could increase the country’s blood supply by 615,000 pints per year.
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