A gay bone marrow donor is calling for more gay men to join the Anthony Nolan donor register, highlighting the fact that gay men can donate bone marrow or stem cells - despite many people assuming they can’t.
Stuart Brooks, a 25 year old trainee lawyer from London, who donated his bone marrow to a stranger last year, is speaking out to other gay men as part of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan’s new myth busting campaign.
Stuart said: ‘After I donated my bone marrow, word spread among my friends, and I was stunned by the response from my peers.
'I found that lots of gay men assumed they couldn’t donate due to their sexuality.'
'This is wrong and since young men make the best donors, it felt like a terrible waste. What if they were the one person that could cure someone of blood cancer, but they never joined the register? I felt compelled to spread the message; we need more young gay role models to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register and save lives.'
‘If the gay community can get behind this, we can have a really positive impact and drastically increase the number of people who are cured of blood cancer. Many gay men strive to provide role models for our community, so wouldn’t it be awesome if we could become known as a group of selfless superheroes that has vitally improved the prospects of those living with blood cancer?
We can achieve this just by signing up to the Anthony Nolan register and encouraging all our gay friends to do so..’
About the lifesaving Anthony Nolan register
We are a blood cancer charity and the world’s first stem cell register. We use our register to match people willing to donate stem cells or bone marrow to patients in desperate need of a lifesaving transplant.
Everyone who joins the Anthony Nolan register goes through the same health and suitability checks – sexuality doesn’t matter one bit. In fact, young male donors are urgently needed, regardless of their sexuality.
Stuart signed up to the Anthony Nolan register over seven years ago, while studying at the University of Warwick.
‘While at university I found out that donating blood simply wasn’t open to gay men who were sexually active. But when Anthony Nolan visited my university they quickly established that my sexuality would not bar me from saving a life - it was like a breath of fresh air.
‘Signing up was a no brainer – I had the chance to provide the precious gift of life on a really personal level, and the process of joining the register couldn’t have been simpler.’
'The procedure was painless....and the opportunity to give someone life is such a rare opportunity'
Stuart came up as match for a stranger seven years later and went on to donate his bone marrow in October last year.
He said: ‘Suddenly I was confronted with the fact that there was another person out there who had a specific need for my stem cells. Only then did it become real - it’s not just this abstract thing.
‘I decided to donate in the less common method - a short surgical procedure - because it was best for my specific match. The vast majority of people donate stem cells through their blood now, instead of giving actual bone marrow like I did. But despite the myths, the procedure was painless - in fact, the most discomfort I felt was removing the medical tape from my arms!
‘The opportunity to give someone life is such a rare opportunity. I just kept thinking that if I was run over by a bus tomorrow, I would leave something great behind. It’s probably the most important thing I will do in my life.’
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, added: ‘Sadly many gay men assume they can’t donate stem cells but this just isn’t the case. We urgently need more young men to join our register, as they are most likely to be asked to donate yet make up just 15% of the register.
‘The more young men like Stuart sign up, the more lives we can save. It’s so easy to sign up to the register, all you have to do is fill out a simple form and spit in a tube. If you are a match for someone donating isn’t painful, 90% of the time it’s just like an extended blood donation.’
If you are aged 16-30 and in good health you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register by clicking on the button below
We want to bust myths about donation, including the fact that gay men can join our register. Help us out by viisting our mythbusting page at www.anthonynolan.org/mythbusting