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Landmark Change To Blood Donation Rules Removes Restrictions Against Gay Men

by : Emily Brown on : 14 Jun 2021 10:19
Landmark Change To Blood Donation Rules Removes Restrictions Against Gay MenPA/Stonewall

New eligibility rules that come into effect today, June 14, mean men who have sex with men are now allowed to donate blood. 

The historic move aims to make the blood donation process more inclusive, as men were previously banned from donating if they’d had sex with men within the past three months.

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From June 14, World Blood Donor Day, the questions asked to those looking to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales on the Donation Safety Check form will change, with eligibility now based on individual circumstances surrounding health, travel and sexual behaviours, which are evidenced to be at a higher risk of sexual infection.

Rather than asking donors if they are a man who has had sex with another man, individuals will be asked if they have had sex and about recent sexual behaviours relating to that sexual activity.

Anyone who has had the same sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible to donate, as will those who have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex, and where there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent use of PrEP or PEP.

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As a result of the changes, more men who have sex with men will be eligible to donate blood, plasma and platelets.

Person donating blood (PA Images)PA Images

Ella Poppitt, Chief Nurse for Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, made clear that patient safety is a priority and that the change does not impact the safety of the blood being used for donations, but rather ‘switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual.’

She explained:

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We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals. All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviours which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future.

Our priority is to make sure that donors are able to answer the pre-donation questions in a setting that makes them feel comfortable and safe and donation is something that continues to make people feel amazing. Our staff have been trained to make sure these more personal conversations are conducted with care and sensitivity and accurate information is captured.

The changes to the Donation Safety Check form come after an evidence-based review into individualised criteria by the For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group, led by NHS Blood and Transplant.

The review concluded the new system will be more fair while still maintaining the UK’s status as one of the safest blood supplies in the world, and the findings were accepted in full by the government last December.

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Poppitt asked that all blood, plasma and platelet donors consider the new questions alongside the existing health and travel questions before going to give blood, adding that medical staff want donation to be a ‘positive experience’.

Data regarding the changes to donor selection are set to be kept under review and assessed after 12 months to determine if any changes are needed, with feedback from donors, LGBTQ+ people, patients and representatives all being taken into consideration.

Anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or with multiple partners in the last three months will be not be able to give blood right now, though they may be eligible in the future.

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Patients within the NHS are in need of blood donors more than ever this year, with the demand for donated blood increasing.

You can register to become a donor and book an appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting www.blood.co.uk. You can also donate plasma for antibody medicines that are used to save the lives of people with rare immune diseases. Potential plasma donors should call 0300 123 23 23.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Stonewall

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Health, blood donation, Blood Without Bias, discrimination, LGBTQ+, NHS