Gay and bisexual men excluded from Covid-19 plasma trial


Gay and bisexual men are not being allowed to participate in some medical trials in the UK that aim to find a treatment for Covid-19.

Scientists are hoping that plasma from the blood of coronavirus survivors will be an effective means to help those who are still ill with the disease: it is believed that antibodies from the survivors could boost the immune system of sick people.

While doctors have called on Covid-19 survivors to come forward to donate their blood plasma for the trial, gay and bisexual men are not welcome.

ITV reports that health care worker Andy Roberts hoped to make a difference in the fight against the disease and applied to take take part. However, after a 20-minute telephone screening process, he was informed by the operator that he is not eligible because he is in a same-sex relationship.

In the UK, gay and bisexual men are not allowed to donate blood if they have had sex with another man in the previous three months – even if they are completely monogamous.

“It makes me feel very angry,” Roberts’ partner Keith Ward told ITV News. “We have been together in a monogamous relationship for more than 30 years and I previously didn’t know of this outrageous three-month rule.”

He added: “It only goes to show that in the UK being gay is still thought as a form of contamination, so if you’re straight and sleep with a different person every weekend it’s safer according to [the rules].”

The three-month blood donation deferral period has long been condemned by LGBTQ activists as discriminatory as it views all gay men as being at high risk of passing on certain infections, rather than considering their individual circumstances.

“It’s really upsetting that gay and bi men who want to help in the fight against coronavirus are being prevented from doing so,” commented Laura Russell, Director of Policy at Stonewall. “The decision on whether people should be able to give blood or plasma should be based on individual risk assessments, not on people’s sexual orientation.”

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed its gay blood donation policy, reducing the deferral period for gay and bisexual men from 12 months to three months.

South Africa’s own anti-gay blood donation policy was changed in 2014. There is now a deferral for anyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity, who has had a new sexual partner in the previous six months from donating blood.

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