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NEWS: More gay and bisexual men eligible to give blood

IMAGE: PEXELS

New blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men have come into effect in England today after being introduced in Scotland and Wales yesterday

Gay and bisexual men in Britain will be able to donate blood from three months after having sex with another man. The new rules replace a twelve-month deferment period which had been in place since the lifetime ban was lifted in 2011.

Scottish LGBTI equality and human rights charity, the Equality Network, has welcomed the new blood donation rules which they say will reduce – though not eliminate – the discrimination faced by gay and bisexual men.

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager at the Equality Network, said: “We welcome that more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate blood from today.

“We hope many gay and bisexual men who are now able to donate, do so with their peers. These new rules are a welcome and significant step forward, we remain concerned, however, that for too many low risk gay and bisexual men these new rules are, in effect, a continued ban.”

“The blood service has committed to explore ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced. We look forward to continuing to work with both the blood service and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) to eliminate all unwarranted discrimination from the UKs blood donation rules.”

Dr Gail Miflin, Medical and Research Director at NHS Blood and Transplant this morning said: “We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world.

“Anyone may require a blood transfusion in the future and so it’s in all our interests to ensure that we work hard to keep blood safe for patients.”

The blood donation rules were changed after the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments instructed their respective blood services to implement the recommendations of a recent review of blood donor criteria and risk assessment by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which advises health ministers and departments for health across the UK.

Northern Ireland has only recently removed the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations, but with the Stormont Assembly suspended is unlikely to implement the new rule changes any time soon.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive Officer at Stonewall, said: “We’re pleased to see the Government and NHS Blood and Transplant respond to the Freedom to Donate campaign in such a promising way. Reducing the deferral period makes it easier for gay and bi men who want to donate blood and that’s an important step forward.

“However, there’s still work to do, as many gay and bi men will still be excluded from donating. To avoid this, we’d like to see the introduction of an individualised risk assessment of blood donors, which would allow more people to donate safely, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“We will continue to work with the Government and other organisations to create a fairer system for gay and bi men who want to donate blood.”

The rule change also affects people who have sex with partners who are classed as high risk.

For further information on current donor criteria visit www.blood.co.uk

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