Gay men blood donor ban lifted

 
A blood donation Men who have sex with other men will be allowed to donate blood

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When I reported last year about the urgent need for blood donors I received many comments from gay men that they would like to donate but were unable to.

Now the complete ban is being lifted. Until now, any man who had ever had sex with another man was barred for life from donation.

From 7 November the ban is being lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. But men who want to donate must not have had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

This deferral period has been left in place because there is a "window period" after infection with blood-borne viruses where they are not detectable.

This window period is far less than 12 months.

The report from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) says that for HIV it varies from nine to 15 days, depending on the type of test. For hepatitis B, which causes liver disease, it is 66 days.

"Disproportionate"

In Spain, the deferral period is six months following the change of a sexual partner, whether the would-be donor is heterosexual or gay. In Italy the restriction lasts for four months following the change of partner.

By contrast, in the US, Canada, France and many other countries there is a complete ban on donations from men who have ever had sex with men.

Whilst welcoming the lifting of the ban in the UK, some still regard the one year deferral as too long.

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill. "To retain a blanket ban on any man who has had sex with another man in the last year, even if he has only had oral sex, remains disproportionate on the basis of available evidence."

But Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust said: "The remaining deferral regulation for sexually active gay men is based on their heightened risk, as a group, of sexually acquired blood-borne viruses."

A one year deferral period for donation applies to other groups as well: for example anyone who has been sexually active in countries where HIV/Aids is very common, and anyone who has had sex with a prostitute.

NHS Blood and Transplant has a complete list of who can and cannot donate.

The hope will be that the shift in policy will lead to an increase in the number of donors.

If you want more detail about the reasoning behind the decision to lift the ban, then the full report from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) can be read here.

 
Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 27.

    The reality is that there are many heterosexuals who indulge in anal sex and a lot of gays who find the practice repulsive and stick to oral sex and mutual masturbation. Anal sex is high-risk sex, oral sex very low risk, with vaginal intercourse in between the two. So if there is to be a deferral period for specific types of sexual activity, it should only apply to unprotected anal sex, by anyone.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 26.

    Any deferral period should be for no longer than three months, as all blood-borne viruses can be detected by then. Any restriction on the basis of oral sex makes no sense because of the extremely low risk involved. A deferral on the grounds of risky unprotected anal sex should apply equally to heterosexuals and gays. The new policy still perpetuates the notion of dirty homosexuals.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    sorry, I got my information mixed up... there is no deferral period for "straight" donors, contrary to the required 12-month celibacy period for gay men. Still I think it´s a step forward in the right direction. No more lying about one´s sexual orientation... The lying will completely stop when the 12-month celibacy period disappears and we´re all treated as equals

  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    Hi Darren, bear in mind that after the November deadline gay donors will no longer have to lie about their sexuality. Of course they never tell the truth about their 12-month sabbatical! Mind you, the so-called "straight" donors will continue to cheat regarding their 6-month celibacy period. But the lifted ban is a step forward in ending discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    Gay men are considered high risk for HIV/AIDS & some types of hepatitis, viruses that can be transmitted in blood transfusions. Restrictions are often only "deferrals" since in some cases blood donors who are found ineligible will be accepted at a later date. Restrictions do not affect women - including women who have sex with women. Deferral seems the right policy to me.

 

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