Monday , 16 September 2019

Lib Dem leader: blood ban is “stupid”

Tim Farron: “it’s frankly stupid to lock out millions of people who are willing and able to help.” (Photo: Andrew Page)

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, has today added his voice to calls to overturn the discriminatory blood donation rules applying to sexually active gay and bi men, people who have injected drugs or those who have had sex for payment.

Mr Farron, whose religious beliefs and mixed voting record on LGBTI rights have provided some controversy in recent days, made the appeal in an article for The Huffington Post coinciding with the launch of the “Freedom to Donate” campaign.

He argued that the current rules were “scientifically and socially outdated, deeply and unjustly stigmatising, and urgently need to change”, before pointing to his party’s record of campaigning to end the ban.

Farron pointed out that a change in the law, introduced in 2011, to allow men in same-sex relationships to donate blood only if they had been celibate for 12 months was woefully insufficient. “By any standards [celibacy] seems like a pretty high price to pay for the privilege of selflessly offering a gift that literally saves lives…and it has created a situation where blood is accepted from lots of other groups who, on the evidence, are at higher risk of contracting HIV and other blood-borne infections than gay men. So while gay men practicing safe sex are banned from donating, straight men and women who may well engage in far riskier practices are not.”

The Lib Dem leader called for “evidence-based policy” as the surest way of keeping blood donation safe. The blood ban is not scientifically literate, he claimed: “it patently doesn’t make sense – and it is frankly inexcusable that we have a prurient statutory policy that discriminates against and stigmatises gay and bisexual men, transgender people, and those who sleep with them.

“We cannot afford to turn people away on the basis of a confused and judgemental policy that doesn’t fit our needs or sensibilities. The current rules are based on assumptions of fixed, binary sex and gender identities that make no sense now, if they ever did, and, as well as being offensive – not just to those affected, but actually, to all of us – it’s frankly stupid to lock out millions of people who are willing and able to help.”

Mr Farron’s contribution, and the launch of Freedom to Donate, has been welcomed by many LGBTI and HIV charities and lobbying groups – as well as many activists.

Gay Christian blogger Kristian Carter added to Mr Farron’s criticism of the rationale behind the blood ban. “The legislation was put in place at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s when there was a moral panic over infected blood. We now know much more about HIV/AIDS, and screening methods have become much more advanced.

“HIV never is, never was, and never will be a ‘gay plague,’ but the current legislation certainly gives that impression. Heterosexuals are perfectly capable of contracting HIV as well – which is why their blood is screened for HIV when they donate. The blood ban is an insult to gay people, doesn’t make a shred of medical sense, and it’s time to consign it to the history books.”

Mathew Hulbert, a Lib Dem activist and LGBTI rights campaigner, told KaleidoScot: ”I’m very pleased Tim and the Lib Dems are taking a lead on this vital issue. It makes no sense at all, especially at a time when the number of blood donors is substantially down on what is needed, to turn away willing donors.

“Tim said he’d raise this issue early on in his leadership and he’s doing exactly that. Tim is fully supportive of LGBT+ equality and this is one very clear example of that.”


About Andrew Page

Andrew Page
Andrew is KaleidoScot's sports editor and photographer. An experienced blogger, Andrew was raised in the Hebrides and currently lives in Renfrewshire. Andrew became an active equality campaigner at the time of the Section 28 debate, and has particular interests in faith issues and promoting LGBTI equality in sport. Andrew was shortlisted for the Icon Award's 2015 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Lesley Stafford

    I don't think I could care less what Mr Farron thinks. He couldn't answer a simple question yes or no when ask if he believed gay sexual relationships were immoral. This confirmed that he IS morally troubled by gay sexual relationships, but too cowardly to admit his feelings. So he supports lifting the ban. So what?

    • The question was provocatively and wrongly put. The interviewer had no clue about Bible, yet she was trying to present a so-called biblical question. Mr. Farron's answer was biblically 100% correct. But I doubt you ever cared about the biblical correctness, did you?

  2. When did the Lib Dem leader get his degree in medicine? Surely this is a matter for doctors to sort out, if it needs sorting out, not politicians. The giving of blood is not so that people can feel good, but so that people get the blood they need.

    Keep politicians out of it!

  3. It does not sound like he knows much or cares about the evidence for the risks involved. Giving blood is not a right, and there is a huge list of reasons one might not be ineligible. It is about decreasing risk, it is not about you personally. If I went over to the USA I would not be able to donate as I was in the UK during BSE. That is not "discrimination" against Britsh people; they have calculated it is not worth the risk. All the more reason to give blood if you are capable.

    More to the point, is this a misguided attempt to make up for his questionable views on homosexuality being immoral?

  4. How anrrow minded you both are.

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