The blanket ban on blood donations by homosexual and bisexual men is to be lifted from 7th November 2011 in England, Wales and Scotland; not [yet] in Northern Ireland, though.
Whilst this is a definite move in the right direction, there is a big caveat attached to the relaxation of the ban which makes me wonder if it is being made merely to comply with the strict letter of EU anti-discrimination regulations rather than to effect any practical change. The change applies only to gay men who [say they] have not had anal or oral sex with another man in the twelve months prior to the donation. Even those in long-term committed monogamous relationships are not exempt from this 12-month rule. What is really being said is that a man (whether homosexual or bisexual) must abstain from having sex with another male for 12 months, but of course the bisexual man is in no way banned from donating if he has had sex with a woman during those 12 months.
Is this in any way realistic, quite apart from whether it is discriminatory or not?
Nor of course are sexually promiscuous supposedly heterosexual men or women in any way banned from donating blood, however unsafe their sexual practices may be.
Another factor that is crucial, whoever is donating blood, is honesty and truthfulness. How is any verification to be carried out, in a practical sense, of whether a man's declaration (whether homosexual, bisexual or indeed heterosexual) that they have not had sex with another man during the preceding 12 months is factually correct? How has it been possible, until now, to verify a delcaration from any man that they have never had sex with another man, to comply with the current blanket ban.
What really needs to happen is that ALL potential donors should be quizzed about their sexual history, whilst accepting that some people (whether homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, male or female) will not be completely open and honest. Who is to know whether a purportedly heterosexual man (or woman) has not had unsafe sex of one kind or another whilst away from home on a business-trip or a vacation? And how likely is it that a purportedly happily-married person will admit willingly to such unsafe behaviour unless there is compelling evidence which makes it impossible to cover up?
Forgive me, but I think this change is cosmetic and with little real substance in any practical sense.