Another nail in the blood ban’s coffin


BBC | 17084

The Government’s advisory committee is about to make it considerably easier for gay men to donate blood in a dramatic winding down of the ban implemented amid the 1980s Aids epidemic.

The committee is reported to have decided that the current deferral period, in which men cannot give blood within 12 months of having sex with another man, should be reduced to three months.

The change reflects improved testing measures which can establish whether someone has HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis inside three months.

The move to reduce the deferral period is supported by a working group of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs. An official report will be passed to the full committee, which will then give its recommendation to the Department of Health in July.

The ban has been in place since 1983 – 34 years.

The 2015 UK Blood Donor Survey of 65,051 people found one per cent lie about their circumstances on their forms. Seventy-four men who have sex with men, out of 22,065, said they had been dishonest to the blood service.

The NHS Blood and Transplant Service says it needs 200,000 blood donors every year.

George Michael died of natural causes


George Michael in 2012 | Getty | 17054

The singer George Michael died from natural causes, the coroner reports. “As there is a confirmed natural cause of death, being dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, the investigation is being discontinued and there is no need for an inquest or any further inquiries. No further updates will be provided and the family requests the media and public respect their privacy.”

Michael’s former partner, Kenny Goss, had previously said he believed the pop star’s body “just gave up”. His manager, Michael Lippman, said at the time that the singer had died from heart failure in bed. His publicist said at the time, he had “passed away peacefully” at home.

George Michael had one of the definitive voices of the 1980s and will be sadly missed.

At last some good news about HIV


Gus Cairns/Twitter | 17024

New HIV infections in gay men have fallen by nearly a third since 2015 across England.

This welcome reduction may be because gay men are buying medicines online.

A similar fall was reported by four London sexual health clinics in December. The new preliminary results from all sexual health clinics in England for 2016 show the same trend is happening across the country.

Valerie Delpech of Public Health England told the HepHIV conference in Malta: “Provisional data suggests that HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in England has fallen, although it is not possible to confirm this at a national level until all data for 2016 have been received.”

Until last year, gay men accounted for just over half of new HIV infections in the UK.

Survivors face more problems as they age

Older people now represent 1 in 3 of those living with HIV, but the government isn’t ready for this fast-growing aging population, and social care is a ticking ‘timebomb’ as more older people living with HIV face loneliness and poverty, says the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Michael said he is worried about life in a care home where HIV treatments are not widely educated and a stigma is still present. “Care home staff are not usually trained in working with people who have HIV, as they’ve never had to deal with it before. So like anyone else, they will have their own pre-conceived ideas about HIV, which could be decades out of date.”

As HIV diagnoses are rising in people over 50, Michael said the only way to improve social care is education. “We also need to educate GPs, care homes and society as a whole about HIV, so that those of us who are growing older with HIV are getting the support we need to live well in older age.”

The report also reveals that six out of ten older people with HIV are living in poverty – double that seen in the general population; eight out of ten experienced moderate to high levels of loneliness – three times more than the general population; one in four respondents said they would have no one to help them if they ever needed support with daily tasks, and eight out of ten are concerned about whether they will be able to access adequate social care in the future.

For Your Activist, it is quite simple. It is wrong to discriminate against people with a sniffle; and it is wrong to discriminate against people with HIV.

What does the future hold for people growing old with HIV?

Irish Republic ditches its lifetime ban

The lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men in the Irish Republic has been lifted.

From today (January 16) a man who last had sex with another man more than one year ago will now be allowed to donate, as long as he meets the other blood donor selection criteria.

Any man who has had sex with another man within the last 12 months will still be prohibited from donating.

Yes, why?


Tamzin B. Smith/Rolling Stone | 17015

Why Is It So Hard for Gay Men to Give Blood? asks Rolling Stone, mainly concerned with the US.

Yes, why? HIV can be detected in days and the stigma around it has decreased dramatically – but the FDA still makes gay men abstain from sex for a year before donating, similar to the UK. I’m not so sure about the stigma decreasing though.

As usual, Rolling Stone get the rock’n’roll sorted.

Last year, the LGBT community was powerfully reminded of that statistic following an attack on Pulse nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 more were injured after a gunman opened fire on the Orlando gay bar. Although OneBlood, a Florida-based donation center, estimated that over 28,000 people donated the week following the tragedy, MSMs were not among them. For gay and bisexual men who will remain sexually active throughout their lives, a one-year deferral amounts to a lifetime ban. This means that these people were not allowed to help their own community members during a time of extraordinary need.

Quite. So get on with it, medical experts, and stop discriminating against law abiding citizens with rights.

HIV Rampant in Condom-free Phillipines. What a surprise

Religious conservatism and restrictive policies in the Phillipines that the Duterte administration has inherited are fueling a rising HIV epidemic in the Philippines, particularly among men who have sex with men, say Human Rights Watch.

Condoms are not currently generally available in the Phillipines.

The report said Philippines has outstripped its Asia Pacific neighbours in terms of HIV prevalence, with statistics showing a tenfold increase in cases recorded over the last five years. It said last year, the Philippine Health Department reported that at least 11 cities recorded high HIV prevalence rates of more than 5 percent among the MSM, with Cebu City – the country’s second-largest city – recording a staggering 15 percent prevalence rate.

The numbers were markedly higher than the overall prevalence rate for the Asia Pacific region, which was just 0.2 percent, as well as the rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the most serious HIV epidemic in the world but has a rate of 4.7 percent for those in that group.

NI gay blood ban legal case ends

A gay man has failed in an attempt to have his legal challenge to the ban in Northern Ireland on homosexual blood donations examined by the UK’s most senior judges. NI’s lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in September.

The Supreme Court refused the case because the matter was now “academic” and the application did not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance worthy of further consideration.

It brings to an end the four-year legal battle over blood donations from gay men in Northern Ireland.

Scots also want Prep

Calls are being made to get Prep, a drug that prevents HIV infection in people at high risk of the virus, available on the NHS in Scotland.

In England, the NHS had previously said that local authorities should provide Prep because they are responsible for preventative health. This week the Court of Appeal ruled that preventive health falls within the remit of the NHS.

An estimated 14,000 people would be eligible for the drug.

Patient Zero cleared


Gaétan Dugas | Anonymous/Associated Press | 16489gh

The alleged “Patient Zero” of the American AIDS epidemic was a French Canadian flight attendant named Gaétan Dugas, who died of AIDS in 1984. Mr Dugas was exonerated last week. Far from being the instigator of an epidemic, he was merely one of thousands of its victims.

There’s a more detailed article on our sister website, Gay History.