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Health

Blood ban on gay donors to be reviewed in UK

Meka Beresford June 15, 2016
Blood

70,000 new donors are needed in France each year. (Getty Images)

The Department of Health announced they will review the 12 month ban on gay men donating blood, on World Blood Day.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blood Donation and the FreedomToDonate campaign announced the parliamentary inquiry into who can safely donate blood.

The APPG will review the current guidelines that are in place and the inquiry will hear evidence on whether the guidelines reflect today’s scientific and technological advances.

Currently, just 4% of the UK population donate blood. The APPG will review evidence and compile a report that will provide recommendations to the government on how to ensure as much safe blood as possible is donated.

Men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months are not allowed to donate blood. The review hopes to bring the ban down to 3 months.

This ban targets sexual orientation rather than sexual activity. If a gay man practices safe sex with one partner he is exempt from donating, but a heterosexual man who has unsafe sex with multiple partners is allowed to donate.

A spokesperson for the FreedomToDonate campaign said: “1 in 4 of us will need blood at some time in our life. Everyday over 6000 blood transfusions take place but over the last 10 years there has been a 40% drop in the number of donors.”

“We want to increase this number, and reforming these restrictions is the start.”

Health minister Jane Ellison MP announced last year that the policy would be privately reviewed in 2015.

FreedomToDonate and APPG are encouraging public discussion on the issue during the review.

The Department of Health recently announced that blood has actually become safer since the outright ban on gay men donating blood was lifted.

The review hopes to work out how bloodstock can be increased without the safety of blood being impaired.

Stewart McDonald MP, who chairs the APPG on Blood Donation, said: “There is a body of evidence which shows the 12-month deferral period for MSM donating blood could be reduced to 3 months and we want to explore all restrictions on donation to ensure as many people as possible are able to do this life-saving act.”

Dr Christian Jessen said: “The case for reviewing the current guidelines into who can safely donate blood is scientifically irrefutable. 5 years since the last review, our understanding of blood borne viruses has come a long way, and this knowledge must be reflected in the policy.

Ethan Spibey, founder of FreedomToDonate set up the campaign after being inspired by his grandfather’s life being saved by a blood donator.

He said: “The very least I could do is to repay that person by donating mine to help save someone else’s loved one. But, like many people who could donate if it were not for these outdated rules, I am not allowed.”

Northern Ireland just brought their ban into line with the rest of the UK.

More: blood ban, gay men, LGBT, Parliamentary Inquiry, Queer, UK, world blood day

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