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New blood donation rules for gay and bi men in the UK has not changed rates of infected blood

Patrick Kelleher December 7, 2019
Blood donation ban UK

Gay and bisexual men still face outdated restrictions on blood donation. (Pexels)

New blood donation rules that allow gay and bisexual men to give blood if they have abstained from sex for three months have not changed rates of infected blood.

Just seven out of 2 million blood donations made in England, Scotland and Wales in 2018 were infected with HIV, Katy Davison of Public Health England revealed in a presentation in San Antonio, Texas, New Scientist reports.

The number was up from the year before – by just one. Six donations were infected with HIV in 2017, during which time gay and bisexual men were only allowed to give blood after abstaining from sex for 12 months.

Davison revealed the stats at a meeting of the AABB international blood bank association recently and said that the infected donations were discarded so nobody received HIV-infected blood.

LGBT+ activists want to see the three month abstinence policy scrapped in blood donation policy.

The relaxing of blood donation restrictions has been widely welcomed by LGBT+ activists – however many have warned that a three month abstinence requirement is still too long. Furthermore, gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland must still abstain from sex for 12 months in order to give blood.

Josh Bradlow, head of policy at Stonewall, told PinkNews that the UK needs to adopt a blood donation policy that would allow “the most possible people to donate safely.”

At a time when the number of people donating blood is in decline, we’re calling for a system based on individualised risk assessment of blood donors, rather than the exclusion of an entire group.

“The current three month deferral period means most gay and bi men will still be excluded from donating blood,” Bradlow said.

“It’s simply untrue that every gay and bi man is a high-risk donor.

“At a time when the number of people donating blood is in decline, we’re calling for a system based on individualised risk assessment of blood donors, rather than the exclusion of an entire group.

“Stonewall will continue to work with the Government, NHS Blood and Transplant Service and other charities to create a fair and safe system.”

An ‘illegal blood bank’ was recently set up to protest against the exclusion of queer men.

The news comes just weeks after LadBible’s UNILAD in partnership with ELVIS and pressure group FreedomToDonate set up an “illegal blood bank” specifically for queer men.

The “illegal blood bank” was set up to protest against discriminatory blood donation policies that insist gay and bisexual men abstain from sex in order to be eligible blood donors.

Among those who donated at the illegal blood bank was gay rugby player Keegan Hirst. Organisers said that the blood bank was at capacity and 26 pints of blood were taken in one day.

Furthermore, 2,300 men who have sex with men pledged “digital” pints of blood to show that they would donate if they were eligible – and to highlight the amount of blood donations that are lost due to the policy.

The National Health Service has seen a 25 percent drop in men donating blood since 2014 and requires 135,000 new donors each year to maintain blood levels.

Blood stocks also tend to fall between December and January according to statistics.

More: AIDS, bisexual, blood donation, England, Gay, HIV, Men, Queer, Scotland, Wales

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