Gay and bisexual men to be excluded from donating plasma in groundbreaking coronavirus trials

Patients who have recovered from Covid19 are being encouraged to donate plasma from their blood to aid the fight against Coronavirus. This convalescent plasma could help acutely ill patients to combat the virus if their body is not creating enough antibodies to help them to fight through their illness. Robust clinical trials have been launched to test the efficacy of convalescent plasma whilst the search for a vaccine continues. If successful, the use of this plasma in hospitals could potentially save lives and free up ventilators. Chief medical officer of NHS blood and transplant, Dr Gail Miflin, stated that “we are rapidly building our capability to collect plasma so that we can quickly move into supplying hospitals at scale, should the trial demonstrate patient benefit”.

However, just like blood donation, the call for plasma has highlighted discrimination within government legislation regarding gay and bisexual men. Men with male sexual partners cannot donate plasma unless they have been abstinent for three months. For example, Andy Roberts a critical care manager attempted to donate his plasma after recovering from covid 19 but was turned away as he is in a same sex relationship, despite the fact that he has been in a monogamous marriage for thirty years. According to the current guidelines, a straight person with multiple sexual partners is allowed to donate. All blood donated from any individual goes through a screening process. This calls into question the need for this blanket ruling rather than a more individualised assessment.

Many groups have campaigned for the decision as to whether a person can donate to be based on individual behaviour rather than sexual orientation. The need for plasma to fight coronavirus has once again emphasised the amount of lifesaving donations which are being bypassed, and also the effects of this blanket ruling on attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Lad bible’s campaign ‘the illegal blood bank’ highlighted the amount of blood which is continuously being missed out on due to outdated government legislation. Thousands of pints of blood have been pledged on their website by gay and bisexual men who want to donate but are banned. Lad bible stated that their campaign ensured that “everyone is treated equally and assessed on their individual behaviour, and not their sexual orientation.” Lad bible also voiced the fact that the system should not ask a donor to abstain from sex. 

If the criteria for donation judged individuals on their sexual behaviour and not their orientation, lifesaving blood and plasma would be utilised for the acutely ill who need it most.

Alex Rimmer