Gay blood ban reduced
Publish Date: 08/09/2011
The new policy allows gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they have not had oral or anal sex with a man in the last year.
Previously all men who had ever had sex with another man (including men who are gay, bisexual or had a one off sexual encounter with another man) could not donate blood.
In the UK, men who have sex with men were excluded from donating blood altogether, after the UK Blood Service chose to impose a lifetime ban from the early days of the AIDS crisis.
The criteria across UK Blood Services for accepting blood donors is reviewed by the Department of Health's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
The review that prompted the change, carried out by SaBTO found that: The introduction of a 12 month deferral would maintain the safety of the blood supply, and bring the criteria for men who have sex with men in line with those for other groups that are at an increased risk of carrying blood-borne infections.
Gay and bisexual men, as a group, are at higher risk of acquiring some blood borne infections (such as HIV or Hepatitis B) than the majority of the UK.
The majority of sex between men does not carry a risk of transmitting blood borne virus. However, it is not always possible for everyone to know when a virus has been transmitted through oral or anal sex; even though condoms are effective at stopping HIV and other infections, many people have problems with condoms breaking or slipping off that some people have become infected even when they use condoms consistently.
Most gay men have oral sex without using condoms. While the risk of HIV infection through oral sex isn’t high, it is estimated that around 2% of gay men with HIV have become infected in this way.
Even people who believe they are in a monogamous relationship can get a Sexually Transmitted Infection. Many gay men are in genuinely monogamous relationships, however if a gay man has sex with another man outside of his relationship he is far more likely than a heterosexual, to be having sex with someone with a blood borne virus.
For these reasons, the new policy applies to all oral and anal sexual activity between men, not just ‘risky’ sexual activity.
The Group's report, setting out the evidence on which SaBTO's recommendation is based is published here: http://bit.ly/n0OPpA
This information has been edited from GMFA’s easy to understand explanation at www.gmfa.org.uk/blood
For more information visit www.blood.co.uk
What gay and bisexual men can do!
The new policy, which removes the total ban but still requires that no gay or bisexual man who has had sex in the last year donates blood, means that around 90% of gay men will still not be able to give blood.
This new deferral period is as a result of the risks of transmitting Hepatitis B through blood products, which is far more infectious than HIV, and the complications in testing blood for Hepatitis B.
The priority of the National Blood Service is to prevent blood containing HIV or other blood-borne viruses from being passed on.
Gay and bisexual men can play a vital role in supporting the blood transfusion service by helping to ensure that the donated blood is safe for all people.
We all want the blood supply to be as safe as it can be, and we can help by working to reduce the level of blood borne virus within the LGB&T community.
If enough gay and bisexual men get a Hepatitis B vaccination this will help prevent the spread of Hepatitis B within the gay community and reduce the percentage of us with Hepatitis B, so that we are no longer a higher risk to the blood transfusion service.
Also, by doing all that we can to prevent the transmission of HIV, by taking responsibility for safer sex, testing and consistent condom use, there would be fewer gay men with HIV.
Gay and bisexual men can donate blood stem cells and bone marrow, however people with HIV cannot, for more information visit http://www.anthonynolan.org/ Also, there are no restrictions preventing HIV negative gay men from donating organs. www.organdonation.nhs.uk.