For me, FreedomToDonate is a very personal issue that has affected me and my family. I grew up just outside of Manchester and my Grandparents lived round the corner and I saw them every day. They always did anything and everything for me, so when I was told my Granddad had been rushed to hospital, it was as scary as if it had been my Dad. My Granddad's always been a very strong man and he battled his way through a major operation and came out the other side still fighting, and it wouldn't have been possible without the eight pints of blood he received.
Naturally, when he came out of hospital, our family were elated and grateful and one of the ways we decided to show our gratitude was to donate blood. My Mum came home with the forms I needed to fill out and we had planned a family trip to donate blood all still on a high from the good news following Grandad's operation.
I remember looking down at that piece of paper and my heart sinking. I also remember the expectant face of my Mum watching me whilst I held that piece of paper in the kitchen. The guilt and shame I felt when I read that I couldn't donate blood was horrible. It made me feel as though I'd done something wrong, as if I couldn't repay the favour that had seen my Grandad survive a major operation.
Years on, I still can't repay those people who ensured my Granddad is still alive. As a gay man who has had sex in the last 12 months, I'm disallowed from donating and quite frankly, it makes my blood boil. And I'm not the only one. I know there are thousands of people out there who want to donate, want to do something incredible, but can't. And that's why I decided to create FreedomToDonate.
The campaign is now supported by some of the largest LGBT organisations and charities in the UK. To add to this, a range of MPs from across the political spectrum have come out in support and our launch and petition on Change.org have received widespread coverage.
We are calling for a review into the guidelines and a more inclusive policy towards those who can donate. We accept the decision that was made in 2011 as one that was based on medical evidence at the time, but given the severe shortage of blood supplies in the UK, surely it's time to look at this policy again.
The key here, and a staple of the campaign is to promote a policy which is inclusive but maintains a safe blood supply, whether that be for men who have had sex with men or for those currently under a blanket exclusion.
FreedomToDonate, like the NHS Blood Donation Service, recognises both the invaluable role that blood plays within our health service each and every day. The difference however, is that we are calling for a solution; a solution which takes into account today's screening capabilities and has a policy based on a pragmatic approach to keeping the blood supply safe but sufficient.
I told my Grandad at the time of his operation that I wanted to donate blood, and I and the campaign won't stop until I've returned the favour and kept my promise.Suggest a correction