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French blood donation ban for gay men to be lifted ‘in coming months’

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  1. Good to see that France will follow science rather than prejudiced perceptions.

  2. Now for the UK to follow suit please

    1. Absolutely.

      There is no scientific justification for withholding blood from all LGBT men.

      However, nor is there any justification for accepting blood from all heterosexuals.

      Both should be restricted on the basis of behaviour (which is current practice in agrowing number of countries – and the practice with regards heterosexuals in the UK).

      The exclusion on grounds of orientation is not based on risk but on prejudice.

      1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 3:05pm

        Of course there is scientific justification. Do you think this is done out of pure spite and homophobia?

        The point is gay men are statistically proven to be a higher risk than many other sectors of society. However, I do agree that other groups such as sub-Saharan Africans should also be excluded from donating.

        The fact that testing blood is not infallible means that eliminating high risk groups IS PART OF THE SCREENING PROCESS – not some additional criteria.

        1. So why do we allow donations to continue from 16-25 year old heterosexuals – they are as risky of BBV issues as gay men (if not more so) – this is nothing to do with risk – and everything to do with prejudice.

    2. Don’t hold your breath – most people in the UK still believe HIV is transmitted by Gays and blacks –

      Unlike the British Public HIV does not discriminate!

      1. Absolutely.

        If the issue was safety then any person having had sex in the window of opportunity would be excluded.

        However, safety can be achieved with appropriate self declaraions – simple matrixes of safety and appropriate testing of samples (most of which testing wise already occurs).

      2. Robert in S. Kensington 15 Jun 2012, 8:07pm

        I agree. It is still perceived as a gay disease. I often wonder had it first struck the hetero population and not the gay population what the attitude towards it would now be. In the case of the former, I doubt if their sexual orientation would be brought into question, denigrated or their existence stigmatised based on who they have sex with or denied basic rights without discrimination or lack of inequality.

      3. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 3:06pm

        Most people in the UK are actually correct in that assumption.
        It’s not a nice label to have, but the facts do not lie.

        1. Which assumption are they correct in?

          1. Spanner1960 17 Jun 2012, 11:44am

            “most people in the UK still believe HIV is transmitted by Gays and blacks.”

            Or would you care to prove otherwise?

          2. Of course HIV is transmitted by gay people and black people. And straight people, and bisexual people, and white people, and Jewish people, and disabled people ….

            HIV does not discriminate – blood policy seems to – on an unscientific basis.

  3. France is absolutely storming ahead of the UK lately!

  4. Thousands of people in this country die each year from not receiving bone marrow or vital organs. Imagine how much this number could decrease simply by tapping into a source of willing donors.

    Homosexuality in the current debate is used as a rather imprecise proxy for the true risk factors for HIV infections. That is, it is not homosexuality per se that makes a person more likely to become HIV positive, but instead there are certain lifestyles (such as practicing unsafe sex and frequenctly changing sexual partners) that lead to increased HIV risk. Proponents of banning homosexuals from donating blood seem to assume that these high risk behaviors are more prevalent among homosexuals than among the heterosexual population. An assumption that does not seem supported by actual data.

    For example, in Germany more than 50% of homo- and bisexual men report being in steady, monogamous relationships, and more than 70% of those who have (frequently) changing sexual partners, practice safer sex

    1. Maybe heterosexual men are becoming more high risk than homosexual men.

      Then again, simply taking base-rates at face value might not be an adequate approach here: Since homosexual men comprise a much smaller group than heterosexual men, if members of each group follow the same sex practices within their respective groups, and if the likelihood for transmission were equal for each sex act, homosexual men might still show higher prevalence of HIV than homosexual men. If not because the relatively smaller network is more conducive to spreading of disease, then because for every pair of infected homosexual men, we would count one infected heterosexual man and one infected heterosexual woman. That is counting one less heterosexual man, each time we count two homosexual men. 
In the above case of differing base rates – regardless the reason – the higher prevalence of HIV infection among homosexuals might be a valid argument for using sexual orientation as a cheap a priori screening device

    2. for potential blood donors.

      Statistical discrimination – that is differential treatment because of differing statistical base rates among respective groups – as practiced in the case of blood donations is legal in Germany as well as in America. Statistical discrimination has been discussed by academic experts by saying “statistical discrimination (vs disparate treatment) can be a justification for policies that have a disparate impact (e.g. racial profiling at airports or selective screening of visa applicants)”

      It is important to not confuse legality with justification; especially, when alternative – less discriminating – methods of screening exist:
Instead of asking people to report whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, one might as well assess risky behavior patterns directly, in order to estimate a personalized HIV risk factor. This personal estimate could be calculated as a simple weighted function of risk mitigating behaviors, such as safer sex habits, and may even

    3. include sexual orientation in order to adjust for base-rates. Computationally, this is nothing a simple spreadsheet on your personal computer couldn’t handle.

      As far as the benefits of such a personal risk assessment approach are concerned, it is clear that it would not only avoid further stigmatization of homosexuals, but also increase the potential pool of blood donors for the National Blood Service and patients who require blood.

      General safety would be maintained both through existing screening and delays in release of those blood where there is any risk highlighted on matrix for additional screening and ensuring that the window of infection opportunity is considered in screening.

What is even more important, personal risk assessment would lead to an increase in the safety of blood donations, which should be the ultimate concern of all parties involved.

    4. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 3:13pm

      Bone Marrow and organ donations are entirely different things.
      The problem specifically with blood donation is that stored blood has a very limited shelf life, whereas the HIV virus may carry a far longer incubation period. This consequently can increase the risk of cross-infection due to tests missing the problem. In the case of donated organs, they can often be held in stasis for longer periods, thus allowing a full range of tests to be done. Also, organ donations are fast-tracked and far more specific tests undertaken rather than the general tests made on wholesale blood that is being donated in thousands of pints a week.

      You also point out that many practice safer sex – but the word is safER, not safe. There is always an inherent risk no matter what precautions are taken.

      1. Where does Steve mention bone marrow donation?

        Trying to create a smoke screen to promote the prejudice you clearly enjoy happening in a clinical environment that has nothing to do with safety or clinical evidence?

        1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 6:21pm

          Steve a day ago
          “Thousands of people in this country die each year from not receiving bone marrow or vital organs. Imagine how much this number could decrease simply by tapping into a source of willing donors.”

          I suggest you try reading the posts properly before hurling accusations and insults. You might also wish to read the outcome of NHS clinical evaluations as well before just coming up with ad hominem arguments based on personal feelings rather than cold, hard facts.

          1. Personally, I prefer to refer to clinical opinion from a wide range of international experts who judge on a clinical basis rather than on a mix of clinicial and poltiical considerations (as is often the case in the NHS).

            There is sufficient evidence posted by many on this thread to show that the current system in the UK is not based on scientific risk

  5. A number of countries have ditched their lifetime exclusion, including New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia. They now allow some gay and bisexual men to donate blood, in certain circumstances.

    Since Spain and Italy ended their total gay ban, the number of HIV infections from contaminated blood donations has fallen dramatically. They eased the restrictions and, at the same time, improved the screening process and educated gay donors about the new policy.

    The priority must be to protect the blood supply from infection with HIV. But this can be achieved without the universal exclusion of all gay and bisexual men. The blood service should replace it with more narrow restrictions focused on risky gay and bisexual donors. This change of policy could go hand in hand with a “safe blood” education campaign targeted at the LGBT community, to ensure that no one donates blood if they are at risk of HIV and other blood-borne infections.

    The only men who should be definitely excluded

    1. as donors are those who have had oral or anal sex with a man without a condom in the previous six months and those who have a history of unsafe sex. Most other gay and bisexual men should be accepted as donors, providing their blood tests HIV-negative.

      If the blood service wanted to be ultra cautious, it could exclude all male donors who have had oral or anal sex with a man in the last month, and do both a HIV antibody test and a HIV antigen test on all other men who have had oral or anal sex with a man in the preceding six months. This would guarantee that the donated blood posed no risk to its recipients. This change of policy would not endanger the blood supply. With these provisos, the blood donated would be safe.

      The American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centres favour changing the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

      According to Dr Arthur Caplan, former chair of the US government advisory panel on blood donation:

      1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 3:15pm

        “those who have a history of unsafe sex”
        You expect these people to keep a log book of all their conquests?
        Have you never heard of the concept that people may lie?

        1. Well the NHS currently ask heterosexuals to disclose any occasions of unprotected sex – why should the same disclosure programme not happen for gay people – unless its based on prejudice?

          1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 6:25pm

            Sure. And they may well lie as well.
            The point is, gay men are a higher risk than many straight groups, which is why they are excluded.

            Offering questionnaires is open to false data. Taking statistics from positive HIV infections is not.

          2. In the growing number of countries that have adopted this approach the number of HIV infections from blood transfusion has decreased after it was introduced.

            That suggests (strongly) that the current UK system is more risky.

            Do you seek to have a more risky system because it panders to some peoples prejudices?

            If this is not the reason – why do you want a more risky system?

          3. Clearly those that want the more risky system that we currently have prefer to thumb me down rather than debate or argue their point with evidence.

    2. “Letting gay men give blood could help bolster the supply. At one time, long ago, the gay-blood ban may have made sense. But it no longer does.”

      Evidence given in 2008 to a Tasmanian tribunal on the blood ban suggested that if gay and bisexual men who practised safe sex were allowed to donate, one HIV-positive blood donation would be likely to slip through the clinical screening process once every 5,769 years. That’s once between now and the year 7781.

      The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. The blood of most gay men is safe to donate. Far from threatening patients’ lives, gay mens blood often can help save them.

  6. Robert in S. Kensington 15 Jun 2012, 4:18pm

    As always, we’re alway slow on the uptake. I bet France beats us to equal marriage too. I like the fact that the French government wants to do it “quickly”.

    About time the ban on gay men donating blood was lifted, and “quickly”. The majority of us don’t have HIV, don’t indulge in unprotected sex and pose no problem to the blood supply. I can’t imagine that the authorities believe that heterosexuals who have unprotected sex aren’t at risk though and not subject to the current ban. Makes no sense.

    1. I am sure many of the professionals are fully aware that heterosexuals who have unprotected sex are a risk and would prefer a more scientific screening method rather than one based on prejudice, presumption and falsehood.

  7. Organisations like THT aren’t really doing us any favours in this area in this country. When the gay blood ban was on TV a couple of years ago, they had a spokesperson on BBC News. The news presenter basically wanted to reassure the public that the LGBT community was in no way different, and there’s no worries about HIV infected blood entering the supplies.

    The spokesperson proceeded to tell the British public that gay people were at a higher risk of HIV and they were right to be worried. This is Terrence Higgins Trust we’re talking about here. The guys apparently on our side.

    I remember the reporter sat there in stunned silence for a few moments. I sat there in stunned silence for a lot more than that.

    1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 3:18pm

      That’s the point. They are not on anybody’s “side.”
      Or would you prefer they simply glossed over minor little details like “facts.”
      THT exist to prevent and treat HIV & AIDS, not to act as a mouthpiece for gay men who can’t keep their dicks in their pants.

  8. The World Health Organisation wants you to be a silent hero. A simple act with the power to save lives will be encouraged across the globe. World Blood Donor Day celebrates those who give blood with events in more than 40 countries. The UK goes further than most, hosting a National Blood Week that urges people to make a date to donate.

    Unless you’re gay. Gay men cannot donate blood in the UK until they have abstained from sex for at least one year. This guideline was only recently introduced – it took until 2011 for the National Blood Service to recognise that there is no innate danger in someone’s sexuality. Before late last year, gay men were in the same risk category as people with hepatitis and heroin addicts. No openly gay man could donate blood, ever. This was based on legislation from the 1980s, when HIV scaremongering was at its height.

    For decades the fear of HIV transmission perpetuated the ban. It has taken robust research from the advisory committee on the safety of blood

    1. tissues and organs (SaBTO), and studies from countries such as Australia, who have more liberal donation guidelines, to enable a change in policy.

      Stopping the outright ban on gay blood donation is progress. But the new guidelines still classify all gay men as unsafe as those who use prostitutes or sleep with intravenous drug users. The remaining limitations are a reminder that deeply ingrained discrimination persists.

      The National Blood Service justifies its decision by detailing the increased risk of allowing gay men to donate blood freely. Without the one-year limit, the risk of HIV infection appears to climb to unacceptably high levels. But this disregards differences in behaviour within the gay community.

      A gay man who uses condoms and only has oral sex with a monogamous partner is immediately excluded from donating. A heterosexual man who does not use contraception and has many partners is not. Objectivity is ignored: one person is defined by his sexuality, the other isn’t.

    2. A low-risk, sexually active gay man who wants to donate blood and is less likely to transmit HIV than his risky straight counterpart would still be turned away.

      This archaic approach seems out of step with the NHS’s otherwise progressive sexual health policy. Genito-urinary clinics do not care what you do in the privacy of your own home, or who you do it with. They are more concerned with protecting people from sexually transmitted disease. So as long as consenting adults are involved, anything goes.

      Gay people are respected as equals by sexual health clinics, and uptake of their services is consequently high. This contrasts with the National Blood Service and the donor crisis they face, where only 4% of people who could donate do. Seven thousand units of blood are needed each day across England and Wales. In the 1980s, the Aids campaign urged people not to die of ignorance. The UK cannot afford to refuse willing blood donors today for the same reason.

      There’s no dispute that

    3. avoiding the transfer of blood-borne viruses in transfusions needs to be a top priority. The National Blood Service excludes all sexually active gay men from donating for this reason. But this ignores the individual. Rather than distinguish between high- and low-risk groups in the gay community, it perpetuates the idea that all gay men are the same: dangerous, diseased and something to avoid. It’s black-and-white thinking that encourages out-of-date prejudice.

      It does not blanketly ban young heterosexuals – who are as much of a risk for BBV (if not more) that gay men.

      Its time for change – based on science, reason, evidence and risk – not based on prejudice.

      If it can work (and improve safety) in other nations – then we should be capable of making it work in Britain.

      1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 6:30pm

        “Its time for change – based on science, reason, evidence and risk – not based on prejudice.”

        Utter bilge.
        If these people were prejudiced, they would also ban lesbians.
        Also, would you say these people were prejudiced towards sex workers, IV drug users, haemophiliacs or numerous other groups that are also excluded?

        I appreciate that many gay men are perfectly safe to donate blood, but there is no definitive way to prove this. Unfortunately, it will always remain a case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’, but until an accurate, foolproof way of testing blood can be achieved in a short time frame, that is the way it should remain.

        1. GulliverUK 16 Jun 2012, 9:49pm

          Spanner, seriously mate, BELT UP.
          You don’t know what you’re talking about. They have tests which can actually detect the tiny particles of HIV itself, not just the more easily detected anti-bodies, which take some time after infection to appear. So they have a test, as accurate as the traditional one, which can detect HIV just a day or two after infection.

          I’m not a doctor, I don’t work in this field, all I know is it’s available, but I don’t know what the price differential is, or if there is any. If there is an increased cost it becomes about how much the blood is actually worth. But given some young heterosexual men have sex with lots of female partners, they are clearly at risk of getting an STD or HIV, whilst a gay couple in a monogamous relationship present no risk.

          The currently policy is completely nuts, and nonsensical.

          1. Spanner1960 17 Jun 2012, 11:56am

            “detect the tiny particles of HIV itself”

            You have no idea what you are talking about.
            Once the virus has replicated within the T-cells, it can lay dormant for many months. HIV does not survive long openly in the bloodstream, so the only sure indicator is the antibody count. By the time an accurate test on the blood has been made, the blood is beyond any practical use, apart from plasma.

            You may not work in this field, but I have it on good authority from one of my best friends who is a haematologist that has been working in this field for the last 30 years. This is not about prejudice, it is about risk assessment.

            If it means a number of perfectly safe gay men are denied the chance to donate if it saves just one person from contracting a potentially terminal disease, then it is worth it.

            i suggest it is you that belts up and stops moaning about hurt feelings when a child could end up dying simply because of your selfish attitude.

          2. You may have it on good authority from a haematologist who is a friend.

            I prefer not to rely on friends testimony (even if they are in the field) – I prefer to rely on the weight of evidence of proven scietific study – which demonstrates that the current position is not based on risk, and that risk is reduced by operating int he manner Poland, Italy, Spain, Latvia and others are.

            I prefer to follow evidence based approaches rather than eminence.

            I prefer to reduce risk rather than save face of someone who should know better.

  9. The Italian regulation which prevented blood donation by those engaged in
    “homosexual intercourse” was repealed by a decree of the Ministry of Health on the 26th January 2001.

    Now, people who have had “sexual intercourse with a high risk of transmission of STIs” are permanently excluded, while persons who have had “occasional sexual intercourse with a risk of transmission of STIs” are excluded for one year.

    Importantly, men who have sex with other men can donate blood if they have not engaged in high-risk activity.

    Italy’s figures for HIV infection via blood donation show the impact of this policy.

    In 1998-9, 24 people were infected with HIV through blood donation in Italy. In 2000-1 that figure fell to 10. In 2002-3 it was 9, in 2004, 4.

    This is partly because of improvements in clinical testing, but it is believed it is also because Italy has implemented a new donor screening policy that focuses on safety of sexual practice.

  10. In Spain men who have had sex with other men are not necessarily barred or from donating blood.

    And as with Italy, Spain’s policy has not resulted in an increase in HIV infection through blood transfusion.

    Indeed, according to the Spanish Ministry for Health, the number of HIV infections which have occurred through blood donation has steadily decreased since the turn of the century, from 13 in 2001 to 4 in 2003 and 2 each in 2004 and 2005.

  11. On March 9th 2006 the American Red Cross, together with the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers, wrote to the US Food and Drug Administration seeking an end to the lifetime ban on blood donation from sexually-active gay and bisexual men.

    According to the three organisations, advances in clinical testing have dramatically changed the blood donor landscape.

    “Current duplicate testing using NAT and serologic methods allow detection of HIV- infected donors between 10 and 21 days after exposure. Beyond this window period, there is no valid scientific reason to differentiate between individuals infected a few months or many years previously.”

    For the three organizations concerned this meant that,

    “It does not appear rational to broadly differentiate sexual transmission via male-to-male sexual activity from that via heterosexual activity on scientific grounds. Neither does it seem reasonable to extend this reasoning to other infectious agents.”

    The three

    1. bodies then went on to highlight the negative consequences of arbitrarily discriminating against men who have sex with men, as well as flaws in the research currently being used to justify this discrimination.

      “To many, this differentiation (between homosexual and heterosexual) is unfair and discriminatory, resulting in negative attitudes to blood donor eligibility criteria, blood collection facilities and, in some cases, to cancellation of blood drives. We think FDA should consider that the continued requirement for a deferral standard seen as scientifically marginal and unfair or discriminatory by individuals with the identified characteristic may motivate them to actively ignore the prohibition and provide blood collection facilities with less accurate information.

      “AABB, ABC and ARC acknowledge the concern that relaxation of deferral criteria may increase the number of presenting donors who are marker positive. However, this impact has not been measured directly; it has only

    2. been modeled using what may be incomplete assumptions. The blood collectors are willing to assist in collecting data regarding the actual impact of changes in the deferral, in order to allow for informed decision-making, and/or for the development of additional, appropriate interventions to ameliorate the impact. There is no reason that testing can not erradicate virtually all risk from those who engage in risky behavior – certainly no more risk than presented by current heterosexual donors. The pattern of experience in a number of other geographic areas demonstrates that evaluation on risk rather than orientation based grounds decreases risk.”

      The three groups stated that they are willing to settle for a deferral period that is “consistent with deferrals for those judged to be at risk of infection via heterosexual routes.”

  12. A promiscuous heterosexual male is a higher-risk donor than a gay or bisexual man in a monogamous relationship.

    People need blood – lets sensibly, and in a risk averse manner, ensure that maximum safe supplies are available.

    Scientific risk is determined on grounds of behaviour not orientation, race, gender etc

    1. Spanner1960 16 Jun 2012, 6:34pm

      Citation needed please.

      Why do you think gay men are so prone to the disease?
      Anal sex has a significantly higher risk of transmission over vaginal sex, and gay men typically have considerably more sex partners than most heterosexuals.

      Just by picking out the occasional exception to the rule does not justify your argument. One has to take the median across the sample, not the odd spike due to a tiny minority.

      1. You genuinely need a citation for the comment

        “A promiscuous heterosexual male is a higher-risk donor than a gay or bisexual man in a monogamous relationship.”

        You lack to common sense and logic to be able to realise that a monogamous person (of whatever orientation) is less risk than a promiscuous one (of whatever orientation).

        Here is me thinking you actually utilised some intelligence occasionally, Spanner – clearly not here!

        But since you want a citation – a very quick google search gave me this article:

        1. Spanner1960 17 Jun 2012, 12:03pm

          The problem is that, as it has often been proven, and I have also experienced personally, that one of the gay couple is monogamous, and assumes the other is too, and in some cases has contracted the disease unwittingly from their partner who has been unfaithful behind their backs. Open relationships are also common within gay partnerships.

          I agree any truly monogamous relationship is obviously less risky than a promiscuous one, but what I was trying to say was comparing like for like, gay sex is riskier than straight sex, if there is more than one sexual partner involved.

          1. The problem is that risk of HIV transmission in England & Wales is higher in the current system than in those countries who discriminate on behaviour not orientation.

            The problem is that their risks also reduced on introdfucing this system.

            I would rather have the benefit of that reduced risk.

      2. It’s hard to think of anyone who is a lower risk than two people, of whatever orientation, and whatever type of sex they have, in a monogamous relationship.

        The only person safer than them is someone who doesn’t have any sex, surely !

        It really is a slap in the face when governments congratulate people for being in committed stable monogamous loving relationships, only to take a swipe at you for being gay, and telling you to no actually have sex for 12 months if you want to donate blood. It’s bizarre. What I’d like to do is be ruler for a year, then tell every straight person in a committed monogamous relationship they cannot donate blood unless they don’t have sex for 12 months and see if they find the policy acceptable.

  13. GulliverUK 16 Jun 2012, 9:36pm

    You don’t need a medical degree to know that gay couples who have tested HIV negative and are in monogamous sexual relationships pose no risk, whilst Mr Raging Hormones who dips his winkie in a different bush every weekend is high risk.

    It is the sexual history which matters, not the act.

    Due to advances in testing it is now possible to detect HIV, not just HIV antibodies. The latter take time to develop. Either test everybody, regardless of sexual orientation or even history with the new method, or just use it for those perceived as higher risk.

    I see no difference between a lifetime ban, and a 12 month ban – even the latter rules out most gay men, so really is no change of position, it remains serious discrimination – don’t kid yourselves that the ban was ever lifted. :(

    1. Spanner1960 17 Jun 2012, 12:09pm

      “It is the sexual history which matters, not the act.”
      Wrong. It is both.

      Anal sex is considerably more risky, and although straights do participate in this practice, it is not as common. That is simply the reason why gay men were decimated back in the 80’s. One cannot avoid that fact and claim it is irrelevant, it is of crucial importance. It is also the reason why many Africans have become infected because men will only marry “virgins”, whereas anal sex is not considered a loss of virginity, and so heterosexual anal sex is rife, and combined with the concept held by many African men that condoms are ‘unmanly’, the virus spreads rapidly across the community.

      1. I agree it is both that matter.

        It matters less if the sex involved is safer and much much less if in a monogamous relationship.

        What does not matter is orientation.

        I would like to benefit from the improvements in reducing risk that Italy, Spain and other nations have had by adopting a behaviour based approach.

        1. Spanner1960 18 Jun 2012, 4:27pm

          “What does not matter is orientation”
          Of course it matters, bonehead.
          Unprotected anal sex is more dangerous than unprotected vaginal sex.
          Something like 20% of straights practice it, and 80% of gays do, so the sexual orientation DOES matter.

          You are like one of these holocaust deniers that thinks we are all being persecuted. Why do you think so many gay men dropped dead in the 80’s? Was it possibly a homophobic virus?
          Or was it simply lots of promiscuous men with loads of partners were taking it up the arse without a condom?

          Answers on a frigging postcard please.

          1. Two things heterosexuals also have anal sex “bone head”

            Secondly, the fact remains safety improved in Italy and Spain when they introduced risk based assessments – not orientation based.

            Why do you not want to improve safety of blood in the UK?

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