A blood drive meant to counter negative stereotypes about a British immigrant group has inadvertently resurfaced tensions over restrictions against gay and bisexual men donating.
Polish nationals living in the U.K. began donating blood en masse this week as part of a campaign to highlight their "contribution to Great Britain," The Independent reports. Many participants documented their donation (and smiling, somewhat woozy-looking faces) with the hashtag #polishblood on Twitter.
Conservative Party MP Michael Fabricant has seized on the opportunity to call attention to the National Health Service's "discriminatory" policy regarding gay and bisexual men. Speaking to Pink News, he said:
This has got to end. Not just for the sake of the gay community, but for those who urgently need blood transfusions… It cannot be logical that a gay man [practicing] safe sex with a single partner is banned from giving blood while a straight man having unsafe sex with multiple partners can. There is no logic to this and it is unnecessarily discriminatory.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are only allowed to donate blood in Scotland, England, and Wales if they have not had sex within the past 12 months. In Northern Ireland, MSM are banned outright.
Much like in Northern Ireland, non-celibate gay and bisexual men are banned from donating blood in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration's policy—instituted during the early years of the AIDS epidemic—cites the "increased risk" of MSM as a group for HIV, hepatitis B, and other STIs that could be transmitted via blood transfusion as the reason for this ban.
The FDA formally proposed lifting the ban back in May. The new policy, much like Britain's, would allow MSM to donate blood if they had abstained from sex for 12 months.
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