A new twist on blood donation

Around the world countries have been wrestling with blood donation regulations for the last few years. Lifetime bans on bi and gay men donating blood were widely introduced in the 1980s in response to the first cases of HIV/AIDS, and have come to be seen as discriminatory as the intial panic calmed down, and treatments and detection improved.

But incidence of HIV remains higher amongst men who have sex with men than in the population as a whole. So there is a tension between not excluding donors who are entirely safe to give, and trying to avoid taking donations from people whose blood cannot be used.

With improved testing, and the political will for change, Britain reduced the life ban to a 12 month limit in 2011, and at the end of 2017 cut that to three months.

Israel have just announced a creative new take on dealing with the issue this week. They will take blood donations, freeze them for four months, then if another blood donation from the same person tests clear the blood service will unfreeze and use the old blood.

It does depend on a donor coming back after an interval of many weeks, but it is a rule based on testing rather than stigmatising behaviour or assuming donors are honest about their recent sexual activity.

We shall see if it catches on elsewhere.