Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has called for a formal review of the existing ban on sexually active gay men from donating blood to the NHS, proclaiming “sexuality shouldn’t be the issue,” the Huffington Post UK reports.
Burnham, a hopeful for Labour Party leadership, joins the ranks of a growing number of MP’s in favor of a review on what many have called an outdated eligibility policy from the UK’s National Blood Service.
In conversation with The Huffington Post UK, Burnham expressed his support for the fledgling “Freedom to Donate” campaign.
“I think sexuality really shouldn’t be the issue. The issue is behaviour,” said Burnham.
“Whatever your sexuality, heterosexual, bisexual, gay, if you are living a lifestyle that is risky then that is the issue for me, not the issue about sexuality. If you are in a very stable relationship, where’s the issue? That is where I think the system has got a kind of old fashioned take on it.”
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“Obviously, you’ve got to do it with expert evidence behind it and of course that has got to be taken into account,” he continued.
Though a lifetime ban on gay blood donation has been lifted in England, Scotland, and Wales, the Northern Irish DUP has yet to lift theirs, despite allowing regular donations from heterosexuals who admit to bouts of unprotected sex.
Blood storage shortages may be what pushes policy reform over the edge, as a 40% drop in donations over the past decade has nearly depleted UK blood supplies.
“Medicine has come a long way in the last five years, particularly in terms of our ability to diagnose and treat an manage HIV and other blood-born viruses,” says Doctor Ranj Singh, an NHS doctor in support of the campaign.
“We are in a different place to where we were five years ago, and because of that, we can probably start to bring donation processes in line with them.”