Sunday, June 08, 2008

THT interview on blood donation

PinkNews interview with Lisa Powers of THT.

Excerpt dealing with blood donation here:

There is a perception that THT is supporting a policy that is discriminatory.

They need to actually think why would we do that, since we come from the gay communities, being part of the gay community.

I myself have been a gay activist for over 30 years, and I didn't understand it till I sat down at length with people from the National Blood Service and really went into it very carefully and now I understand it.

I don't blame people who don't understand the ban and think it's all about prejudice, because 99 times out of a 100 when someone tells someone they can't do something because they are gay it's prejudice.

The ban around blood is a real problem, and it needs to be constantly checked.

Our view is that we support the blood service as long as they keep reviewing the evidence and we recently had a meeting with the NBS, two months ago, and they are currently going into another review.

They are looking at all the evidence and they are going to be sharing it with us.

They also finally understand they they haven't done enough with the gay community.

I would say to any gay organisation which has tried to engage with the blood service in the past and failed because the NBS hasn't wanted to engage with the community, I would say go back and re-engage.

If you want you can come and ask us at THT about who to talk to.

Get in touch with the blood service, get in touch with the right people at the top and persuade them that they need to explain themselves better.

We now have a FAQ policy about blood donation which is on our website, which tries to explain in as simple terms as possible.

Now sometimes people don't like what we are saying, literally last week we had a phone call to our department here from a gay man who was very upset about the blood policy and said how dare the blood service refuse the blood of gay men.

We said you have to understand that gay men are disproportionately at risk of HIV and then he started shouting at us 'how dare you pick on gay men, how dare you say we are disproportionately at the risk of getting HIV.'

But the fact is that in this country gay men are massively at risk, and what the blood service does, which they have been scared to admit in the past, is they play the odds.

They look at how much blood they need and they look at how many risks they need to take to get the blood they need and what kinds of blood, and they don't take any more risks that that.

Though the risk is relatively low, that something could go wrong, there is risk there.

When we talk to people about this, they are surprised to find out that that no-one from England can give blood in the US, because there is a tiny risk from BSE.

And it wouldn't matter if you are a vegetarian, and for a vegetarian to give blood in the US is like the gay man being refused to give blood here in England.

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