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August 12, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Bent Blood

If you are a man, and you sucked a dude’s dick with a condom on it four years ago, and have tested negative to every STI every six months since, then you can’t give blood. If you are in a monogamous gay male relationship, get tested regularly, and use a condom every time, you can’t give blood. If you’re a woman who, in the last 12 months, has had sex with a man who has ever had sex with another man, you aren’t allowed to give blood. If you are a man, and have had unprotected sex with ten different women in the last ten days, none of whom you’d met before, or talked to about blood-borne diseases, then this doesn’t exclude you from giving blood in New Zealand.

Does that seem right to you?

A review of the exclusion criteria for blood donations in New Zealand was completed for the New Zealand Blood Service in 2008, and this review recommended reducing the deferral period for men who have had sex with another man from ten to five years, meaning that if you really wanted to give blood, you could abstain from oral or anal sexual contact with another man for five years. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t really changed the numbers of queer men who can donate.

HIV/AIDS was clinically identified in 1891, and has since been stigmatised as The Gay Disease, significantly influencing attitudes to queer men’s blood. However, when Australia switched from an indefinite deferral for men who have sex with men, to a (still very long) 12-month deferral, there was no statistically significant increase in the cases of HIV-positive blood donations. Five years for NZ is excessive, and smacks of gay panic and the lingering stigma of unclean gay blood.

The criteria are comprehensive in many areas, but when it comes to behaviour related to sexuality, it is overly simplistic. The New Zealand Blood Service makes no distinction between safe and unsafe sex, which has at least twice as much of an impact as the gender of your partners. The number of people you’ve slept with makes a difference to risk, but that’s not asked either, nor are you asked if you’ve been tested, and no distinction is made between oral and anal sex, despite the huge difference in HIV-transmission probability. But God forbid you sucked a dick one time.

Why not ask the questions, allow a wider group of people to donate (and in doing so reduce discrimination), and do more thorough tests on blood according to risk factors identified in the questionnaire? There are ways of managing blood donations that are less homophobic than the status quo.

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  1. Mark says:

    Finally something I fully agree! My blood is in demand yet I can’t donate any because of some bullshit! My straight best friend is a man slut, yet he can donate while I’m a prude, in comparison, can’t at all because dick in my mouth! Such a bullshit

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