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UK Blood Donation Restrictions Lifted for Gay Men

Blood units

The UK has lifted restrictions on blood donations from men who have had sex with men to bring the rules into line with other group of people with high-risk sexual behaviour.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs announced the decision on 8th September 2011. New data  and advances in the testing of blood mean that men who have not had sex with another man for at least 12 months will now be allowed to donate blood. Previously, men who had had sex with men, ever, were entirely excluded from the blood donation scheme.

Dr Lorna Williamson, NHS Blood and Transplant’s Medical and Research Director explained that the blood transfusion service in the UK has an excellent record of lowering infection rates between donors and recipients: “There has been no documented transmission of a blood-borne virus in the UK since 2005, with no HIV transmission since 2002”.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust explained that the continued exclusion from donation of men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months is based on the heightened risk of gay men contracting HIV:

“The remaining deferral regulation for sexually active gay men is based on their heightened risk, as a group, of sexually acquired blood-borne viruses. Changing that depends on reducing gay men’s risk of HIV and other STIs to the same level as the rest of the population, and re-emphasising the vital importance of safer sex as far too many gay men still become infected with HIV each year. We will continue to campaign to improve gay men’s sexual health to a level where the regulations can be the same for all, regardless of sexuality.”

The same evidence review also concluded that there should be no change to the deferral limits set for those who have worked as commercial sex workers. More data is required by the advisory committee before a change can be recommended.

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Editors and staffers from the Science Desk at The Global Herald.

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