It's National Blood Week and this year the call for blood donors is more urgent than ever with the announcement that the number of donors has fallen by 40% over the last 10 years. With such a crisis in donation why is it that there remains a restriction on any man giving blood who has had sex with another man in the previous 12 months? This week sees many calling for an end to such restrictions as unnecessary and discriminatory - as well as counter-productive given the shortage of donors.
The story I'm going to tell concerns three individuals, whom we'll call (with a hat-tip to Mr Tarantino) Mr Pink, Mr Orange and Mr Black. The reason I'm telling these stories is that last week during my HIV clinic, three of my patients were diagnosed with acute viral hepatitis C. This is how it happened.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to hepatitis as a "viral time bomb" that poses a major public health, economic and social threat. The virus is highly infectious and easily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact - presenting disproportionate risks for people who inject drugs. A cure exists but is prohibitively expensive in most countries.
Many younger gay men these days have not seen their friends die of AIDS-related illnesses, and there certainly isn't the fear around HIV which their once was. There is a difficult balance to strike here: we don't want to stigmatise HIV further yet at the same time it is difficult to combat the damaging "I don't care" attitude without emphasising the serious nature of the HIV infection.