Oxford writer welcomes gay blood donor rule change

The ban preventing any men who have had sex with other men in the last three months from giving blood is due to be lifted on Monday, ending decades of restrictions based on sexual orientation.

Writer Wayne Brown has been waiting years to help others by giving blood, and already has his appointment booked in.

He tried to donate in the middle of the pandemic last year, hoping to finally be able to do his bit.

However, after a lengthy list of questions, the nurse said she could not accept his blood because he had had sex with his husband of 14 years.

“I was turned away. I felt deflated,” he said.

“This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual.”

He told the BBC: “For as long as I’ve been old enough to give blood, I knew that I was not able to due to the fact that I am gay.

“There was a change in the rules back in 2011, but male donors could not have had sex with another man for 12 months before giving blood.

“The rules changed again in 2017 to the effect that male donors could not have had sex with another man within three months.

“None of this was ideal, so I never even tried.

“Then, in September last year, I felt that I had to do something practical to help during the pandemic, so I booked a slot.

“But when I declared that I had had sex with my husband within the past three months, I was turned away. I felt deflated.”


Wayne and Michael

image copyrightWayne Brown

Wayne and husband Michael tied the knot in a civil partnership ceremony in 2006 and now live in Oxfordshire.

“If it wasn’t a marriage it was definitely a wedding – it was our wedding day,” Wayne said.

“It was just a wonderful celebration – not only of our relationship – but also society changing.”

‘The good you can do’

After the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in 2013, the couple officially married.

“Laws can be changed – as much as they were made, they can be changed,” said Wayne.

“There are people all over the world, whereby they could be put to death for being gay, so the fact that we can celebrate our life and relationship in a civil partnership and then a marriage, I’m very grateful for that.

“I am aware we’re lucky – but I always think things could be better.”


Wayne Brown

image copyrightWayne Brown

One such example is the end of the ban on sexually-active gay men giving blood.

Now, instead of being asked if they have had sex with a man in the last three months, all men will be asked if they have recently started a new sexual relationship.

Wayne said the latest change in the rules on donating blood to a more individual-based evaluation process has given him confidence that “positive change is happening for gay men” and hopes that the stigma of being in a high-risk group for sexual infection will eventually not be an issue.

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“I wholeheartedly encourage everyone, especially men who have sex with men, to book an appointment to give blood and to keep pushing for equality.”

Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, agrees.

He told the BBC it was “brilliant” to mark this year’s Pride Month with the removal of the three month blanket deferral period, saying that the more individualised risk assessment and gender neutral questions are fairer and based on the latest scientific evidence.

Mr Green added: “The change maximises the number of people who can donate while also – most importantly – ensuring the safety of the blood supply.”

NHS Blood and Transplant said it wants blood donation to be a positive experience and looks forward to welcoming new donors.

Ella Poppitt, chief nurse for blood donation, said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do.

“This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual.”

Hear more from Wayne on the BBC Within The Rules podcast.

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