Blood Ban to be relaxed further

The Government has announced that the deferral blood donation period for men who have sex with men will be reduced from 12 months to three months. The change will be brought forward next year (2018).

The announcement noted that this move would increase the supply of donor blood available for life-saving operations.

As important for many people is that it further rolls back what had been a lifetime ban introduced in a panic as HIV/AIDS hit public consciousness in the 1980s.

Jen Yockney MBE, editor of Bi Community News said:

The original lifetime ban was a product of a time when detecting the virus was impossible or had a long lead time, and when treatment regimes were non-existent or much more harsh than they are today, the lifetime ban made sense.

We’ve moved a long way since then and it has come to be seen more as a symbol of discrimination, of the 1980s notion that bi and gay men are dangerous and diseased. At the same time changes need to be made in an evidence-based way in response to the changes in detection and how the epidemiology of HIV has proven different to what was feared in the early days.

This further change to the blood donation rules is welcome, but once again reporting including that from the Department of Health covers only the exclusion of men who have sex with men. The ban also extends, with subtly different rules, to the female partners of bi men. Peculiarly the ban there lasts longer than the 12-month ban on their male partners!

At BCN we will be asking the Department of Health about what the changes mean for bi men’s female partners – if indeed there will be any change in the rules for them.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall said:

 

While this is an important move, it’s vital that this is a stepping stone to a system that doesn’t automatically exclude most gay and bi men. We would like to see individualised risk assessment, and are encouraged that the Government and NHS Blood and Transplant Service are committed to exploring how to do this. And we welcome the Government’s intention to better understand the inequalities LGBT people face in Britain to identify key areas for future action, and to ensure that this Government maintains the UK’s impressive record as a world leader on LGBT equality.

Alex Phillips, Blood Donations Policy Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

“We welcome these evidence-based changes to the UK’s blood donation regulations. This will enable more people to give blood, while maintaining the safety of the blood supply.

“We’re pleased that the lifetime ban on former and current sex workers has been lifted, and the deferral period is now in line with other deferrals based on sexual behaviour. We know from our research that the majority of sex workers take great care of their sexual health, with 98% of sex workers we asked rating their sexual health as very important, 76% having a sexual health check up every three months, and 98% knowing their HIV status.

“Medical evidence is, of course, constantly and quickly being updated, so it’s important that the deferral periods are regularly reviewed in line with the latest evidence. We therefore hope that today’s changes will pave the way for more progress as further evidence becomes available.”