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Gay and bisexual men excluded from donating blood plasma for Covid-19 trials
2 May 2020, 19:38
Gay and bisexual men will not be permitted to take part in a blood plasma trial to help treat coronavirus.
Earlier today it was reported that 6,500 people have already registered interest in taking part.
The potential treatment for Covid-19 would use plasma from recovered patients and will trialled by doctors at London's Guy's and St Thomas' hospital.
But critical care manager Andy Roberts told ITV News that although he had tested positive for coronavirus and recovered, he was turned down for the trial.
He says that he was told he was not allowed to take part after a phone call with an operator working on the trial, in which he was asked about his sexuality.
His partner of more than three decades, Keith Ward said Mr Roberts being barred because he is a gay man made him "angry".
"We have been together in a monogamous relationship for more than 30 years and I previously didn’t know of this outrageous three month rule," he added.
"It only goes to show that in the UK being gay is still thought as a form of contamination, so if you’re straight and sleep with a different person every weekend it’s safer according to the rules."
Under current blood donation guidelines, gay and bisexual men are not permitted to donate blood unless they have abstained from oral or anal sex with another man.
The NHS Blood and Transplant service said in a statement said the decision to use current donor selection guidelines "will be kept under review."
It added: "The guidelines are there to protect the health of the donor and the recipient.
"Under the current guidelines, men must wait three months after having oral or anal sex with another man. We appreciate this deferral can feel disappointing if you want to save lives.
"Separately to the convalescent plasma trial, we are working with LGBT+ groups to explore whether we might be able to introduce a more individualised risk assessment for blood donation.”
For those who are permitted to take part in the trial, the donations have been collected and transfusions will begin in "the coming weeks", the hospital's Biomedical Research Centre said.
It is hoped the potential treatment, known as convalescent plasma, will help patients whose bodies are not producing sufficient antibodies to fight the virus.
The hospital says if the trials prove the treatment to be effective, NHS Blood and Transplant will begin a national programme to deliver up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma per week to the NHS, enough to treat 5,000 patients each week.