UK Blood Services makes move to treat all donors equally

Image copyright AFP Image caption Donors are typically offered special rates in exchange for going in for genetic testing UK Blood Services is preparing to suggest asking all donors to reveal their sexual orientation,…

UK Blood Services makes move to treat all donors equally

Image copyright AFP Image caption Donors are typically offered special rates in exchange for going in for genetic testing

UK Blood Services is preparing to suggest asking all donors to reveal their sexual orientation, not just their sexual history.

From December 2018, centres in every county and in four London boroughs – including Lambeth – will begin asking all donors about their sexual experience.

It means all male donors will have to declare their male sex by a specific date.

Earlier this year, UK Blood Services launched a campaign to find out if people would agree to use genetic testing to find out if they had the HIV virus.

And it is thought one of the reasons why this is being proposed is to encourage women to donate blood.

In September, the BBC broadcast a series of reports by freelance journalist Sian Kevitt which highlighted difficulties that women still face when donating blood.

“It is an unfortunate thing that blood services don’t identify women as donors,” Ms Kevitt said.

“They say ‘good morning’, or ‘please, any questions’, or ‘don’t worry, I’ll have a female officer’.”

But the BBC’s research also revealed that being female could delay a woman’s ability to donate blood until around 15 to 20 years later.

‘We want to target all age groups’

A letter to all those who provide blood for the NHS will be sent in the near future, asking people to agree to the questionnaire.

Image copyright PA Image caption Blood tests are used to find out if donors have the HIV virus

A survey conducted by The Sun newspaper found that about 10% of potential donors say they would be uncomfortable answering the questions.

UK Blood Services officials say they want to treat everyone equally.

“We want to target all age groups and we want to make sure that any sexual history is used to support them in their donation,” said spokeswoman Julie Marshall.

She says UK Blood Services will be discussing the LGBT+ questionnaire with at least seven of its 27 partners, including the Indian community, London Councils, the LGBT+ support group MAC, the National Black Blood Transfusion Service and the Inclusive Blood Network.

Image copyright SWNS Image caption Dr Sarah Warburn said volunteers should feel safe when donating blood

So what about those who do not agree to reveal their sexual experience to the NHS?

Blood Service officials point out that other people who donate have indicated they do not want to divulge that information.

Earlier this year, the BBC featured a man who had tried to donate blood after his partner had died, but had been turned away after they failed to answer the question.

Dr Sarah Warburn, a medical researcher and now a volunteer, told the BBC that the health risks of information not being made available were minimal.

“Everyone who gives blood has their own personal risk profile and that will naturally vary,” she said.

“We have no information about the sexual history of those who are not currently giving blood.”

Dr Warburn said that if those who don’t want to take part in the questionnaire were medically cleared for donation, they would not have any effect on blood supplies.

She added that the push to be treated equally with those who give blood is not about lesbians.

“These measures are for all people across the NHS, irrespective of any sexual orientation, whatever their gender or what they do when they are in public life,” she said.

“And we want all donors to feel comfortable when they donate.”

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