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Isle of Man to update gay men blood donation rules after Heartstopper lead’s call to action

Health Minister Lawrie Hooper has said "the willingness is absolutely there" to change the 'archaic' rules.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Jordan Rossi

Rules that have prevented gay men in the Isle of Man from donating blood are set to be updated. 

Health Minister Lawrie Hooper has said “the willingness is absolutely there” to change the current eligibility rules that ban men who have sex with men from giving blood, the BBC reports. 

The news comes after Heartstopper’s Joe Locke called for the “archaic” rules to be updated in a video message speech for Isle of Pride, the Isle of Man’s annual Pride on Saturday (13 August).

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The 18-year-old actor, who is from the island, outlined that while “the island has come so far in the last 30 years… there is still work to be done”.

Locke concluded: “I call upon the Manx government and our politicians to change this archaic rule and bring the island one step closer on its journey to acceptance.”

It seems that the Manx government have heard Locke as Mr Hooper said new policies that would be put in place must be “underpinned by clinical safety”.

He adds that there are “lots of complicated reasons” why the island’s regulations had not been updated even after a consultation in 2014 that failed to change the 1980s blanket ban, some of those reasonings include the updating of blood testing standards to fall in line with England’s eligibility.

The UK rules changed in 2021 so that anyone with the same sexual partner for three months or more is eligible to donate blood while anyone who has had anal sex with a new or multiple partners still has to wait three months to donate.

“Ultimately the aim is absolutely to move to that position of equality where the ability [to] give blood is based on whether or not the blood is safe to be used,” the Health Minister continued, adding that the “target” to change the rules is set for early 2023, sooner if possible. 

James Cherry, of the Isle of Pride campaign group, has declared the announcement “fantastic news” as it marks a step forward towards “breaking down the barriers to equality”.

“It’s good that the Isle of Man government has come out and said we are going to be level with our peers in the UK,” he added.

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.