Pressure group FreedomToDonate, publishing giant UNILAD and creative agency ELVIS today welcomed the UK Government’s announcement accepting their calls for an individualised risk-based blood donation policy – the most forward-thinking policy for gay and bisexual men in the world.
FreedomToDonate has been campaigning for a fair and equal blood donation system for men who sleep with men (MSM) for almost six years, and it worked with UNILAD, part of LADbible Group, to launch the consumer-facing #Bloodwithoutbias campaign in partnership with ELVIS in November last year.
As part of the campaign, UNILAD, FreedomToDonate and ELVIS launched “The Illegal Blood Bank” – the world’s first blood donation clinic for gay and bisexual men, with the aim of demonstrating that by bringing in an individualised risk-based policy, you can increase safe blood donations.
The blood bank gave MSM men the opportunity to donate their blood for the first time in their lives. In the one day the bank was open, FreedomToDonate and UNILAD collected enough blood to save 78 lives. 100% of the blood donated, which was tested to the same standards as blood donated via the NHS, was deemed perfectly safe to use.
On the first day of work for the UK’s new government, UNILAD and FreedomToDonate called for change by exhibiting the real human blood they had collected in adshels outside parliament and across London.
On launch day, conversation about blood donation on social increased by 140% (Meltwater). The campaign delivered 10.8 million impressions across UNILAD platforms, and 62% of those who saw the #Bloodwithoutbias campaign content were ‘extremely in favour’ of changing the policy, vs a benchmark of 46% (control group).
Until now, gay and bisexual men have not been allowed to donate unless they’ve abstained from sex for three months. All gay and bi men were, prior to today’s announcement, treated as too risky to donate, missing out on the potential of thousands of safe donors. This will now change as all donors, regardless of sex or sexuality, will soon be able to donate unless they have had anal sex with a new person or more than one person in the previous three months.
The #Bloodwithoutbias campaign has picked up 27 creative awards since its launch last year.
Ethan Spibey, Founder, FreedomToDonate, said: “Working with UNILAD and ELVIS on this campaign, we have been able to help show the public that individual assessments could work, that millions of lives could be saved, and we could change perceptions of gay and bisexual men who want to safely donate blood. We’re proud to be able to say that this campaign helped to contribute towards the change in legislation.”
Maya Orr, Head of Marketing & Comms, LADbible Group, added: “We’re so proud of the part played by UNILAD and its audience in this drive for equality. Our audience not only engaged with and shared content resulting in nearly a million video views but over 61 thousand people signed our petition and pledged over 5000 pints of blood to help keep piling on the pressure to rectify this bias towards gay and bisexual men. Furthermore, the campaign caught the attention and drove support within the media industry itself, winning 27 awards across the year, ensuring that this outdated policy was not forgotten. This is a huge moment for the UK in ensuring more people than ever can be treated fairly when looking to donate blood, and ultimately meaning more lives can be saved.”
Tanya Brookfield, CEO, ELVIS, concluded: “It’s been an honour to support the tireless work of FreedomToDonate. This giant step forward is quite frankly the best award we could win and something we will all be eternally proud of.”