Don’t donate blood if you’re gay – they don’t deserve your help

Yonden Lhatoo says the Hong Kong Red Cross requirement for gay men to abstain from sex for one year before donating blood smacks of discrimination and adds insult to injury

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 2:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 11:02pm

Are Hong Kong’s gay men desperate to donate blood? Is it a privilege they are not worthy of?

You would be forgiven for thinking so, considering how the Hong Kong Red Cross this week finally tackled the question of accepting blood donations from men who have sex with men.

In a long-awaited display of benevolence, the humanitarian organisation announced that, starting from September 25, gay and bisexual men would be allowed to give blood – provided they hadn’t had sex with men for a “safety” period of 12 months.

On the very same day, the Red Cross blood transfusion service sent out a public appeal for donations, warning that “current inventories have fallen to an alarming level”.

So, let me get this straight: their blood banks are running dry and they’re out in the streets, cap in hand, but the beggars still want to be choosers. Oh, the humanity.

Relaxed rules to allow gay men in Hong Kong to donate blood

The discrimination is apparently justified because we’re following the example set by developed countries such as the United States, France and Australia, and they can’t be wrong, can they. Mainland China maintains a lifetime ban on gay donors, and so does Singapore.

Never mind that Japan has reduced the period of abstinence to six months, while a more enlightened United Kingdom is aiming for three months now.

“We will build on the significant progress we have made over the past 50 years, tackling some of the historic prejudices that still persist in our laws and giving LGBT people a real say on the issues affecting them,” British education and equalities secretary Justine Greening said when she announced the move in July.

Sad to say, our former colonial masters seem to be way ahead of us, as always.

In any case, since there is no recognised certification system for celibacy, who’s to know who’s telling the truth when donating blood?

“Previous studies showed that those men would be more honest in answering health assessment questions [after the change of policy],” the head of the transfusion service said.

I don’t know where to begin with this – you expect them to respond to official bigotry with doe-eyed honesty? Like I said, these gay people must be really desperate to donate blood.

Red Cross appeals for more blood donations as some would-be donors found unfit

Granted, HIV and Aids are disproportionately prevalent in the gay community, but let’s not be naive about heterosexual risks.

Paint it how you will, but, at the end of the day, it just boils down to good old homophobia rather than logic or valid medical concerns. Donated blood is rigorously tested for dreaded viruses like HIV and hepatitis. The Red Cross itself noted that technological advancements had significantly reduced testing periods for blood-borne diseases.

Hong Kong’s only openly gay lawmaker, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, this time went a little beyond the token bleating sounds he makes every year when his Legislative Council colleagues take part in blood donation publicity drives while he’s left out.

“The blood donation ban should target unsafe sex rather than sexual orientation. If the lifetime ban is discriminatory, so is the one-year ban,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “How many gay men would not make love for a year?”

Let gay men donate blood, says lawmaker

You don’t have to follow this ridiculous restriction, Chan and company. How much more insult to injury and indignity can you put up with in this regard? You’re offering to help and they want you to jump through hoops to be considered worthy.

Gay people in this city should turn the tables on this bigotry by boycotting blood donations. Don’t bother to give blood – it’s obvious they don’t deserve your help and your good intentions are wasted on them.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post