I’ve given up sex for seven months so I can donate blood
Currently gay men are unable to give blood if they’ve been sexually active in the last year
Last year it was decided the current British laws, which say that gay men are banned from giving blood if they’ve been sexually active in the past year, should be “reviewed”.
Previous to 2011 gay men faced a lifetime government ban from donating blood, because of fears over the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B. Although gay men are more likely to contract HIV than the rest of the population, there are still thousands of heterosexual people who are diagnosed with the virus every year. For instance in 2013, 2,947 gay men were diagnosed with HIV, compared to 2,135 combined heterosexual men and women.
Despite this 12 month sex ban that gay and bisexual men have to complete in order to donate blood, some are still willing to attempt this in order to save others’ lives.
21-year-old Richard Goodman, a Brighton third year and one of my best friends, has currently gone without sex for seven months so that he can eventually donate blood and potentially save lives.
So, before you told me that you were planning to go without sex for year in order to give blood, I had no idea the ban existed. Do you think many people don’t know much about it either?
No, I don’t think many actually do. Last year I was with my group of friends who were all straight guys and we went past a Give Blood van and I told them that I wished I could donate blood. They didn’t understand what I was talking about so asked why, so I told them about it. They were completely shocked and said that they had had no idea. I think it’s the same with a lot of other straight people.
So why and when did you decide to give up sex in order to give blood?
I’ve always wanted to donate blood ever since I saw my older brother do it. It’s such a rewarding thing to do and good to know you are saving lives. It was only really at the start of my second year of uni that I thought about doing it and was the following May that I decided to actually go through with it and give up sex altogether.
How has it impacted your life?
It hasn’t really as I’m not really the type to go out and have one-night stands and I don’t like jumping into things. I have also started to focus more on uni and work rather than going out and getting with people. Only being in a relationship has had an effect.
So, you’re in a relationship now?
Yes, I am.
Have you told him what you are doing?
Yes, he’s very supportive of what I am doing and thinks it is inspiring. There has also been no pressure to have sex which could be an issue in some relationships.
Would you recommend others to do what you are doing and give up sex for a year in order to donate blood?
Yes. After reading mythbusters on HIV in gay males and –- although I’m against the stigma –- I found that it is more likely for older men to contract HIV than it is for younger men. So as a young guy you have loads of time to fool around with people and can easily play it safe for a year in order to do such a good thing and give blood.
What advice would you give to people considering it?
I’d say, don’t let anyone pressure you into breaking the vow for their own selfish reasons. You can have a stable relationship without sex, it’s only a year. Even if you only give blood once, you have still possibly helped to save a life. And also, don’t count down the days. I’ve found that not counting makes it go quicker. It’s already been over seven months for me!
Tell me what the hardest thing, for you, has been?
Because I’m strong-willed, it hasn’t really been that hard for me. I would never let someone push me into something as I think that you can still have a good relationship with someone and wait to have sex.
What do you think about the ban itself, and having to give up sex for a year, just to give blood?
I think it’s wrong, not just from a biased point of view, because science and technology have exponentially improved to the extent where I think it’s a poor excuse as the blood gets tested anyway. I’m not saying gay men should carry around an HIV-free card but I’m just saying that, not only does the blood get tested anyway but also, straight people can still get HIV, look at Charlie Sheen.
In South Africa they have removed their ban completely and there have been positive statistics showing that the number of donors have increased.
So, you think the ban should be lifted?
Yes. I think it is a very outdated policy and it was only a few years ago that the lifetime ban was lifted. Why is it that poorer and less advanced countries are lifting the ban, and we, England, one of the most advanced countries in the world, are not?
What do you think would happen if it was lifted?
I know, for a fact, that the number of donations would dramatically increase. I know a lot of gay men who really want to give blood but would find it too hard to go without sex for a whole year.
France, Netherlands and Argentina have all lifted their bans – so why haven’t we? I know a lot of gay people who are also desperate to get the ban lifted, like I remember at Brighton Pride this summer, the host talking about it and labelling it as “shameful” which I know many others to have agreed with.
How long do you think you will keep this up for and go without sex for, then?
Depending on how often you can give blood then I’d like to do it a few times before I decide to “go back”.
Thank you so much for talking to me about what you’re doing and making people more aware on the issue. What do you hope to achieve from doing this?
I want to inspire others, but also raise public awareness about the ban. I know so many people who never knew about it and are so shocked when I tell them. I hope it becomes a start for people to step up and say, do you know what, I want to do this too.
If I could save the life of just one person then I would be proud of myself no matter what anyone else thinks.