Friday, September 09, 2011

Gay men blood ban lift; Where does HIV charities stand?

09 September 2011

The Chief Executives,
·         Terrence Higgins Trust
Sir Nick Partridge

· National AIDS Trust
  Deborah Jack

·         GMFA
Carl Burnell
Dear Sirs & Madam,

Yesterday I read with utter dismay, the half-hearted attempt by the UK government at the age-old ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

While some might hail this as a step in the right direction, there is nothing right about the announcement in the first place and if a step at all, it is completely in the wrong direction. The UK should not be promoting apartheid of any kind, and think it is doing well. 

A slave remains a slave, as long as s/he cannot do or partake freely in what others in his/her community can.

The blood ban on a section of the soceity is always wrong as you and I know; because firstly it was based on a non-scientific fact which has since been refuted time and over.

Secondly, it was established on a pure moral witch-hunt of people by the overbearing fundamentalists who would do anything and design any excuse to stop gay people from being equal. This policy was never designed prevent HIV. And if ever it was, it failed.

At this point where it seems the country is realising the mistakes, looking at this presumptive HIV prevention policy, it appears the DoH seems are unable to differentiate between sexual behaviour and orientation.

The implication of this policy, both in its present and proposed state, is that a heterosexual man who engages in unsafe sex can walk into a blood lab and donate blood at any time while a gay or bisexual man who has practices safe sex cannot. Where then is the prevention?
However, while I can deal with and accept the always-political game of the government and its arms, I found it utterly bewildering at the sort of message you have sent out welcoming this very appalling and discriminatory policy.

The wider gay community do not see any difference from where we are. If anything, this proposal, if implemented would make things worst. It segregates us gay and bisexual people to a life of second class and even worse because our sex life is not monitored by the sate.

So if our family or friends are in need and when we can help, we would have to confess that we have had sex in the past 11months and therefore cannot regardless whether we have been safe. Does that make sense?

Your opinions on this matter does not in any way represent the freedom, equality and non-discrimination gay and bisexual men seek and struggle for. Pandering to the government in this manner is like dancing to the gallows. 

It may be good that the government is reconsidering, but your job would be to resound it strongly that this is unacceptable. You should hold government to account; not dance to its apartheid policy.

Also from an HIV prevention perspective, your weak response appears complacent even though you know that this policy does not guarantee any prevention. Is it for favour that you have suddenly mellowed and accepted just 'anything'?

What benefit is there for you that made you concur to this? Accepting this half-baked policy would make it difficult to move forward. It means channelling the little resource you have again into something that could have been completed at a go. 

And how would anyone know who has had sex or not in the last one year? How easily can you measure that?

This bigotry must stop. Gay and Bisexual men are not grateful for yet another slap. Your organisations has disappointed us by issuing a statement calling it “a great news”. For who please?

HIV Prevention must not be discriminatory. The numbers are soaring while monies are wasted targeting presumed 'high risk' communities leaving the rest of the society in the pitch-darkness of ignorance.

It is time you wake up to the reality of your responsibility. You must not at this point taint the good images you have built over the years, by playing a second fiddle to the government’s misguided policies.

Your role should be to hold government to account not endorse its unacceptable policies. The whole population would be disappointed in this singular action you taken for this issue. Focus groups by the DoH showed that patients’ groups from a cross section of the society supported the lifting of the ban, why impose the one year and why are you backing and calling it “great news”?

I hope that you would retract your steps on this and stand firm in the honest and sincere position you have always held before now regarding this issue. The gay and bisexual community do take pride in you but with this, our concerns are rising that you are selling out
Yours Sincerely,

Godwyns Onwuchekwa
Gay rights activist,

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