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Blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men to finally be relaxed next month

Maggie Baska May 11, 2021
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man giving blood donation

The NHS will ask all donors about recent seuxal behaviours, meaning more LGBT+ people will be eligible to donate blood, plasma and platelet. (Envato Elements)

The NHS will make the questions it asks of all blood donors gender-neutral from next month, allowing more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

The change, which will come into effect on 14 June, will allow more people from LGBT+ communities to be able to donate, the service said. Under previous NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) guidelines, male donors were asked to disclose whether they have had sex with another man.

The new Donation Safety Check form will ask all donors, regardless of gender, the same questions about their recent sexual behaviour. The NHSBT said the change will mean that eligibility to donate will be based on a more individualised assessment rather than on a risk assigned to a group or population.

Lord Bethell, the minister for blood donation, said in a statement that the change marks a “significant step forward” to making blood donation policy “fairer and more inclusive”, allowing as “many people as possible to make the life-saving decision to give blood safely”.

Under the new changes, those who have the same sexual partner for the last three months or if there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent user of PrEP or PEP can now donate. The NHSBT said this will mean more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to become blood, plasma and platelet donors.

Donors who have had anal sex with a new partner or multiple partners in the last three months will not be able to give blood but may be eligible in the future. But individuals can donate as long as they have not had anal sex with a new partner or multiple sexual partners in the last three months.

The change follows a review by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group led by the NHSBT. The group also included LGBT+ organisation Stonewall and the HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said the charity supports a donation system that “allows the greatest number of people to donate safely”. She added: “By linking donor eligibility to health, travel and sexual activity with an individualised assessment of risk, these changes will help ensure more people, including gay and bi men, can donate blood.”

Under previous rules, gay and bisexual men had to abstain from sex for three months before they could give blood. This deferral window was an iteration of a haunting move by lawmakers in the 1980s when the UK was in the throes of the AIDS crisis. A lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood was first introduced at this time, when little was known about how HIV and AIDS was transmitted.

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