HUDDERSFIELD policeman Mark Carter is urging more gay men to join the bone marrow register.
A rule change by the Anthony Nolan Trust – which runs one of the two UK bone marrow donor registers – means gay men are now no longer excluded from becoming donors.
Pc Carter, 25, who was crowned Mr Gay UK in 2006, says he plans to become a donor following the policy change.
He said: “I knew that gay men couldn’t give blood, so I never thought about being a bone marrow donor either. It’s something I would like to do now I know I can.”
Pc Carter plans to sign up to the trust’s donor register at a clinic organised by the Examiner and the charity which will take place between 2pm and 7pm on Wednesday, June 18 at the Huddersfield Methodist Mission on Lord Street.
In the past gay men had not been allowed to register as donors because it was believed they were at a higher risk of carrying blood-borne diseases such as HIV.
But gay men are now accepted on to the register as readily as straight individuals.
However, anyone – straight or gay – who is involved in high-risk sexual practices that could leave them open to transmissible disease will not be accepted on the register.
The Anthony Nolan Trust is keen to promote its recent change in policy to encourage more gay men to come forward as donors.
Rebecca Sedgwick, one of charity’s donor recruitment managers, said: “We now no longer refuse people to join on the grounds of their sexuality.
“We ask all people joining to be honest and exclude themselves if they are involved in high-risk sexual practices that may increase their risk of exposure to transmissible diseases.
“If they are practising safe sex with a trusted partner then we are more than happy to accept them.”
Pc Carter lives in Bradford, but is based at Huddersfield police station.
In January this year he took part in the Mr Gay International event in Hollywood as the first ever UK contestant.
He has worked hard to use his profile to change perceptions about gay men and break down stereotypes and barriers.
He said he welcomed the Anthony Nolan Trust’s rule change and hopes other gay men will follow his lead and sign up as donors.
“Perhaps now people know the rules have changed they will be interested too. It’s a really worthy cause.
“I have got my certain charities that I support all the time, but there’s so many worthy charities and causes out there – such as this one – that need people’s support.”
Pc Carter has promised to support the Examiner’s campaign to recruit more donors.
The campaign is being led by Examiner journalist Adrian Sudbury, who has battled leukaemia for 18 months.
The 26-year-old underwent a bone marrow transplant. Sadly, his treatment has failed and he has been given just weeks to months to live, time he is using to raise awareness about bone marrow donation.
He wants to recruit more donors, dispel myths about donation and to ensure better education about the issue in sixth-form colleges.
The campaign is pushing for the Government to require all sixth forms and colleges to teach students about bone marrow donation as standard.
A petition in support of the campaign on the Downing Street website had gained 3,187 signatures by today.
Adrian also met Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the health and education secretaries and won their backing for his idea.
If you would like to become a donor, or find out more, visit www.anthonynolan.org.uk
You can read about what has already happened with the Examiner's campaign at www.examiner.co.uk or find out more about Adrian Sudbury at http://baldyblog.freshblogs.co.uk
Despite the rule change by the Anthony Nolan Trust gay men are not accepted as blood or bone marrow donors by the National Blood Service. The service excludes anyone who is at high risk of carrying blood borne disease such as HIV, which they say includes gay men because they engage in specific kinds of high-risk sexual behaviour.
The service says they cannot simply rely on screening to detect diseases.
For more information about the National Blood Service’s policy on gay men visit www.blood.co.uk