LGBT persons should be allowed to donate blood in Guyana

Dear Editor

It has been reported that President Jammeh of Gambia addressed the UN on September 26 and said that “homosexuality, greed and obsession with world domination are more deadly than all natural disasters put together.” This lament that promotion of equality for LGBT people means an end to the human race, or a ‘threat to human existence’ is often expressed in different ways.  Homosexuals are not only seen as threats because they ‘will not procreate’ but also because they have been labelled as ‘the cause of AIDS.’ While some might ignore President Jammeh, it is regrettable that the Government of Guyana seems to believe that LGBT people are not suitable as blood donors because they ‘threaten’ the lives of those who receive blood.

With all of the knowledge about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted through risky behaviours regardless of whether a person is gay or straight, the question is asked by the blood bank: What is your sexual preference? Women and men who imply that they are not heterosexual are not allowed to donate. Does the government believe that a heterosexual person who might have had risky sexual behaviour with one person is more suitable to be a ‘hero’ than a gay or lesbian person who has been following the Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condomise practice? Does the government believe that as President Jammeh does, that LGBT people are potential threats to the existence of recipients of blood donation regardless of their sexual practices and behaviour?

Spain, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay do not discriminate in their acceptance of blood donors. Russia ironically had lifted its ban years ago, but its recent homopobic idealogues have been calling for a return. There are calls in the United States and other places to end the ban on accepting donations from gay men since there is no justification for the ban. Guyana seems to be one of the few countries which do not accept from lesbians (or women who have sex with women).

There are many who do not believe in blood transfusions as a good thing. The government and supporters of blood donations do encourage blood donation as a public service and identify blood donors as heroes who save lives. The government’s refusal to accept donations from lesbians, gays and bisexuals is not consistent with its own policies of not promoting stigma and discrimination in its health services.

While no President of Guyana has yet called for the heads of  LGBT people as President Jammeh did in 2008, the discriminatory policies reinforced by the government contribute to the environment which nurtures the hatred and contempt for LGBT Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,
Vidyaratha Kissoon

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