Reprinted from Pink News – Nick Duffy
Young gay men who remain banned from giving blood have been urged to sign up to the bone marrow register instead.
In England, Scotland and Wales at present, men who have sex with men (MSM) are banned from giving blood from 12 months from last sexual activity. In Northern Ireland, men who have sex with men are permanently banned from giving blood.
However, the regulations do not mean there is no way for MSM to make a difference – as they are still able to register to donate stem cells and bone marrow.
Stuart Brooks, a 25 year old trainee lawyer from London, has opened up about his experience of donating bone marrow – and urged other gay men to do so.
He said: “While at university I found out that donating blood simply wasn’t open to gay men who were sexually active.
“But when [bone marrow charity] Anthony Nolan visited my university they quickly established that my sexuality would not bar me from saving a life – it was like a breath of fresh air.”
Seven years after joining the register, he was found to be a match for someone in need of a transplant – and opted to go ahead with the procedure.
He continued: “Suddenly I was confronted with the fact that there was another person out there who had a specific need for my stem cells. Only then did it become real – it’s not just this abstract thing.
“I decided to donate in the less common method – a short surgical procedure – because it was best for my specific match.
“The vast majority of people donate stem cells through their blood now, instead of giving actual bone marrow like I did.
“But despite the myths, the procedure was painless – in fact, the most discomfort I felt was removing the medical tape from my arms!”
He added: “After I donated my bone marrow, word spread among my friends, and I was stunned by the response from my peers. I found that lots of gay men assumed they couldn’t donate due to their sexuality.
“This is wrong and since young men make the best donors, it felt like a terrible waste.
“I felt compelled to spread the message; we need more young gay role models to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register and save lives.
“If the gay community can get behind this, we can have a really positive impact and drastically increase the number of people who are cured of blood cancer.
“Many gay men strive to provide role models for our community, so wouldn’t it be awesome if we could become known as a group of selfless superheroes that has vitally improved the prospects of those living with blood cancer?”
Ann O’Leary of Anthony Nolan said: “Sadly many gay men assume they can’t donate stem cells but this just isn’t the case.
“We urgently need more young men to join our register, as they are most likely to be asked to donate yet make up just 15% of the register.
“The more young men like Stuart sign up, the more lives we can save. It’s so easy to sign up to the register, all you have to do is fill out a simple form and spit in a tube.
“If you are a match for someone donating isn’t painful, 90% of the time it’s just like an extended blood donation.”
Gay men in Canada were allowed to give blood for one day last year – with the blood used for research purposes instead of transfusions.