One donation of blood can save up to three lives, according to statistics published by UNILAD. But a shortage in the UK means 135,000 new donors are needed each year with 40,000 more black donors needed by the NHS and a further 30,000 donors with priority blood types.
A UK law still in effect today bans all sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating their blood, even if it’s perfectly safe to use and despite all blood being tested anyway. They can only donate if they abstain from sex for three months. With 1.4 million pints of blood needed every year for patients in England alone, this outdated government legislation means that healthy, viable donors are being denied the right to give blood, with their possible donations going to waste.
UNILAD opened The Illegal Blood Bank in partnership with Freedom to Donate and ELVIS as the world’s first blood bank for gay and bisexual men. The blood bank operated under a fairer system, with a questionnaire that treats everyone equally and focuses on an individual’s sexual behaviour rather than their sexual orientation.
The bank’s aim is to show governments around the world that they are letting millions of pints of blood go to waste every year. Gay and bisexual men who would like to donate their blood were invited to sign up for a Pint in Protest as well as people more broadly being asked to share their support on social media with #BloodWithoutBias.
The Illegal Blood Bank is a marker of how far we still have to go when it comes to overturning historic discriminatory laws and legislation against different communities. Campaigns like this, while attention grabbing and shareable, are vital to raising awareness of laws that many may not realise still exist.
UNILAD’s aim is for the UK government to remove the three month deferral period and to introduce an individual risk assessment that focuses on sexual behaviour not orientation [bit repetitive from above]. As they declare, “Everyone should have the right to give blood without bias.”