NHS urges LGBTQ+ ethnic minorities to donate blood following landmark rule change

Full report: ITV News Central Reporter Raheem Rashid filmed George Mattu, a gay British Indian man, giving blood for the first time

A gay British Indian man has said the old rules around blood donation made him feel "dirty" and like a "second class citizen".

His comments follow a landmark change to blood donation rules, with the NHS now urging ethnic minority members of the LGBTQ+ community to donate. 

The change in the rules means more gay and bisexual men can now give blood, which is proving critical during a time when supplies are lacking.

Before the change, gay and bisexual men were made to wait three months before they were allowed to donate blood if they’d had sex with another man - because of a perceived risk of HIV.

But that's no longer the case - with gay men now safely being able to donate blood without waiting - as long as they’ve had the same sexual partner for three months.

'The rules that were in place made you feel like a second class citizen'

George Mattu, a first time donor, said: "The rules that were in place make you feel like a second class citizen. You know that you're so to speak dirty compared to other people…"

But speaking of the rule change, he said: "This is my opportunity now to do something that I’ve been looking to do for a number of years now.

"There's a massive population of the LGBTQ+ community that are able to give blood."

"Now I've donated once I've realised how simple, quick and easy is to do. I could get this done on my lunch break if I wanted to, so I'll definitely be looking to give blood in the future."

In recent years, the number of new donations from people from ethnic minority backgrounds has been falling - helped by the pandemic. But a deeper look into the figures shows a disparity within those communities.

While first-time donations from South Asian, Mixed or Arab people fell by nearly 2,000, the number of new Black donors actually rose in the 3 years to 2020.

And with demand outstripping supply, the Health Service is pushing for more ethnic minorities to give blood.

Pav Akhtar, from the NHS Blood and Transplant team, said: "I was campaigning for blood donations to become more accessible...I understood the stigma that it brought to LGBT communities and that the untold harm that did to the health and wellbeing of my community's health."

He adds: "We've opened up and we've welcomed our LGBT community. You are absolutely welcome. You have the chance to save lives in same way that everyone else has...and we want to extend that opportunity."

While Jenica Leah, a Sickle Cell patient, says she doesn't care about the sexuality of the person giving blood...she just wants blood.

Her hereditary condition, the fastest growing genetic blood disorder in the UK, means she produces unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause blockages.

The most common way to manage her symptoms is through regular transfusions, which can require up to 10 bags of blood a time.

Jenica said: "I think when you're in that situation, when your life is being kind of, you know, threatened or you're told that you'll be given almost like a 50/50 chance of survival, which is something that has happened to me, you know, that you just need blood."

She added: "I don't think things like, you know, gender or what your kind of sexual preference is....it doesn't matter...at the end of the day, we need blood to survive.

While donation numbers from ethnic minority communities is slowly creeping up following the pandemic, the NHS hopes George is one of many that will become new regular blood donors.