LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell stars in “The Gaydr” campaign
Ahead of next week’s World Blood Donor Day 2018, Wednesday 14 June, McCann London are issuing a challenge to governments and blood services worldwide: “Screen the blood, not the sexuality.”
A surge of press reports (The Economist, ABC,The Mirror) refer to a shortage of blood supplies in blood banks the world over. And yet existing restrictions in over 40 countries,including in the UK, prevent sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood either indefinitely or for a lengthy period of time after they last had sex with a man – even if they practice safe sex within a monogamous relationship.
Similar donor restrictions rarely apply to heterosexual people who have multiple partners and engage in risky sex without a condom.
In a bid to raise awareness about the outmoded and medically unjustified blanket restrictions on gay and bisexual men, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, with the help of advertising agency McCann London has launched a campaign with the message “Screen the blood, not the sexuality.”
It is illegal for sexually active gay men to donate blood in 47 countries, including UK, USA, Canada, Australia, France and Germany.
McCann London created “The Gaydr” - a pseudo “gay detector” device – which wtheyused to scan heterosexual men on their way to a blood bank in central London, in order to make them feel the same sense of exclusion experienced by sexually active gay and bisexual men in many countries. The spoof Gaydr scan informed them that they were actually gay and not allowed to donate blood.
In England, gay and bisexual men are not permitted to give blood if they have had oral or anal sex with a man – even with a condom and even just once – in the preceding three months.
The agency says that blood services worldwide should base their donor rules on sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation.
McCann London used hidden cameras to film the scanned men’s reaction to the Gaydr and the current global restrictions. It has released this 2:32 minute long video to highlight not just this injustice but how lifting the blanket restrictions will mean increased blood supplies for blood banks around the world.
A UCLA studyfrom 2014 estimated that lifting the restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men in the US could increase the country’s blood supply by 615,000 pints per year.
Laurence Thomson, Chief Creative Officer and Co-President at McCann London said, “People’s reactions to the video, captured on film, range from horror to humour, disbelief to dismay. The point of the video is to highlight the absurdity of the sweeping restrictions and the generalisations about gay and bisexual men on which they are based. Our aim is to support efforts to reduce the prejudiced restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men and to help patients in need by boosting global blood supplies.
He continues.“As part of both McCann London’s and The Peter Tatchell Foundation’s effort to have the indiscriminate blood donor restrictions on sexually active gay and bisexual men eased, a series of Gaydr devices will sent to influencers and key figures"
“In a bid to help raise awareness about the excessive restrictions on gay and bisexual blood donors and to lobby for them to be lifted, we built a device that uses so-called homo-erotic tendency technology to help identify sexually active gay and bisexual men and to prevent them from giving blood. The Gaydr is actually a nonsensical, unscientific device – a bit like many of the across-the-board restrictions on blood donors who are gay or bisexual men.”
Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation,said, “These restrictions may have made sense when first enforced in the 1980s at a time when HIV was primarily affecting gay and bisexual men in the West and when HIV testing methods were less accurate. But long ago HIV ceased to be allied to any particular sexual orientation and the testing of donated blood is now very exhaustive and accurate.
It is time that blood banks worldwide focused more on identifying and excluding individuals who’ve engaged in high risk behaviour – regardless of whether they are gay or straight – instead of making assumptions that all gay and bisexual men are high risk of HIV. Most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV.
It is absurd that medically needless restrictions preventing so many gay and bisexual men from donating blood are in place across so many countries. Some men who have sex with men are at risk of HIV. Others are not. We need to stop stereotyping and marginalising the gay and bisexual communities and start securing more blood to save more lives. Let’s start screening sexual behaviour and the blood, not the sexuality.”