Is it time we end the institutionalised discrimination and let Gays give blood?
A small victory, but still not far enough. We spoke to Michael Ward, a student at the University of Westminster and asked him about his experience when he tried to give blood in his hometown.
Today, Friday December 1st marks world HIV day, and also today twice as many people in the UK have HIV than ten years ago.
We may feel like HIV is a disease reserved to the 80’s – people with drug addictions and poorer parts of the world, however the disease remains one of the greatest killers for under thirty year olds in Britain and the social taboo around people living with HIV and AIDS keeps the disease rife within our communities.
If we spoke more about HIV, if we spoke freely about AIDS and if those with the disease were more widely accepted we may be that one step closer to defeating the illness.
So, let’s start talking about it.
HIV is seen in many eyes as the “Gay Cancer”. Yes, it is true that in the earliest days of the virus epidemic that it plagued the sexual liberation of gay communities, but the truth in that generalisation diminished years ago.
According to Public Health England, HIV and AIDS now affects more heterosexual people than non-straight people. One positive outcome of the gay community still having this stigmatisation means that gay people have been much more aware of the dangers of the disease for many years. A wider education on the disease means gay communities are open, accepting and knowledgeable while rigorous and continual safe sex campaigns encourage better levels of understanding and prevention.
But, when it comes to blood donation, discrimination against MSM (men who have sex with men) is institutionalised.
Since the AIDS outbreak in the late 1970’s there have been restrictions on MSM blood donations. In 2011 the law was relaxed and two days ago laws were relaxed even further allowing any MSM or commercial sex workers to give blood after three months of abstinence, rather than 12.
We’ve come this far, but we still have a little further to go.
Words, Video, Images: Michael Ward | Subbed: Joshua Hornsey