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Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual & Transgender Conference 2005
18 November 2005

This conference notes that the purpose of the blood services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is to provide a safe and adequate supply of blood. Screening of blood donors for HIV is necessary for the safety of the blood supply because the available tests for screening donated blood for HIV are not infallible, it is not possible to heat-treat whole blood, and there is a 90% chance of contracting HIV from a transfusion of HIV infected blood.

Conference further notes that in Northern Ireland, there is a statutory duty on public bodies to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different sexual orientation in carrying out their functions. This means that public bodies must assess the impact of all their policies, consult with interest groups and consider what measures may lessen any adverse impact of the policy on the promotion of equality of opportunity. UNISON is campaigning to have this duty extended to England, Scotland and Wales, and campaigning for protection from discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services. Protection in the provision of goods, facilities and services would mean that any difference of treatment on grounds of sexual orientation must be justified in order to comply with the law.

Conference asserts that HIV is everybody’s problem.

Conference is concerned that the current ban on men who have ever had oral or anal sex with another man from giving blood perpetuates a damaging and false myth that all gay men are at risk of HIV. Policies on who may and who may not donate blood must be justified and must flow directly from hard evidence from risk assessments on groups at risk, subject to regular review. There should always be clear medical and epidemiological justification for any difference in treatment between groups of potential donors.

Conference acknowledges the work undertaken by the National LGBT Committee so far, in relation to discrimination in the field of blood donation. Both UNISON and the TUC have raised questions with the National Blood Service about reviewing the evidence on which it bases its current policy, the language used in information to potential donors and practice in donor sessions. However, Conference is disappointed that only limited progress has so far been achieved.

Conference believes that UNISON should continue to embrace difficult work areas such as this.

Conference calls on the National LGBT Committee to:

1.Continue its campaign for legislation protecting people from discrimination in goods, facilities and service throughout the UK and for the extension of the duty to promote equality to England, Scotland and Wales;

2.Broaden its dialogue to include other activist groups campaigning in this area.

3.Work with the UNISON health service group and NEC and Terrence Higgins Trust and other HIV/AIDS organisations to review current research and best practice in the field of blood screening;

4.Discuss with Terrence Higgins Trust the wording of publicity information from the National Blood Service on men who have sex with men and screening of blood donors;

5.Provide a full report back to next year’s conference.