UK Blood Donor Rules Being Relaxed for Gay and Bisexual Men 

Nicky Broyd

December 15, 2020

Restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood in the UK are being lifted by next summer after a safety review.

Currently men who have sex with men (MSM) have to abstain from sex for 3 months if they want to give blood but in future all donors, regardless of their sex or sexuality, will have to complete the same health check.

Evidence Based

The change follows recommendations in the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) report, which Eamonn Ferguson, professor of health psychology, University of Nottingham, said "triangulated epidemiological and behavioural science research to identify the best combination of a question to use for the policy change. The behavioural research contributed by exploring the appropriateness, perceived recall accuracy, reliability and potential for self-deferral of these questions, as well as identifying a subset of questions that reliably predicted self-report sexual risk taking".

There was also an assessment by the Advisory Committee for the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

The new rules say donors who have had one sexual partner and who have been with their sexual partner for more than 3 months, will be eligible to donate regardless of their gender, the gender of their partner, or the type of sex they have.

‘Highest risk behaviours' are identified for all donors, regardless of sexuality.

This includes people who've had 'chem sex' in the last 3 months, or who have been treated for syphilis in the last 12 months.

In April, the US eased its policy on gay and bisexual men donating blood because of supply concerns under the pandemic.

'Momentous'

Experts issued statements reacting to the announcement.

Associate Medical Director at NHS Blood and Transplant and Chair of FAIR, Su Brailsford, said: "Patients rely on the generosity of donors for their lifesaving blood and so we welcome the decision to accept the FAIR recommendations in full. We are proud to have the safest blood supply in the world and I’m pleased to have concluded that these new changes to donor selection will keep blood just as safe.

"This is just the beginning. We will keep collaborating with LGBT representatives, patients and donors so when we make these changes our process for getting accurate donor information about sexual behaviours is inclusive and done well. FAIR has also made a recommendation to Government that further evidence-based reviews are needed."

SaBTO Chair, Prof James Neuberger, said: "SaBTO members during the last meeting unanimously agreed that changes proposed by the FAIR steering group would not negatively impact on the safety of blood supply so it’s good to see the Government taking positive steps towards equality, informed by evidence."

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford said the announcement was "momentous", and Health Minister Vaughan Gething said it "put an end to the discrimination many people in the LGBT+ community have faced".

In a statement, Alan Prosser, director of the Welsh Blood Service said: "These changes represent many years of hard work by the FAIR steering group which is a UK wide collaboration of healthcare professionals and academia within which the Welsh Blood Service has played an important role.

"Whilst blood services are not responsible for setting the rules around who can and can’t donate we’re delighted that the work of the group has resulted in the development of a series of new regulations that will enable us to welcome more donors to our clinics.

"There is still work to be done to implement these new regulations but we are delighted these changes have been announced and look forward to welcoming new donors to our clinics in 2021."

Founder of FreedomToDonate, Ethan Spibey, said: "We have campaigned for over 6 years for the restrictions on men who have sex with men donating blood to be updated and warmly welcome this announcement.

"This means the UK has one of the world’s most progressive blood donation policies and more people than ever will be able to safely donate for those who need it. The work of the FAIR steering group shows that simply being a MSM  is not a good enough reason to exclude someone from donating blood."

Terrence Higgins Trust Medical Director, Dr Michael Brady, said: "The UK is leading the way in ensuring that blood donation is more inclusive and now will allow many more gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men to donate blood."

Comments

3090D553-9492-4563-8681-AD288FA52ACE
Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as:

processing....