News, Culture & Society

Restrictions on blood donations from gay men to be eased

  • Aids fears initially led to an outright ban on blood donated by gays
  • In 2011 the ban on donation from gay men was relaxed but was still overkill
  • Britain has one of safest blood supplies in the world says NHS research director
  • Over policing has restricted the supply leading to shortages 
  • New ruling recognises that restrictions can be lifted without sacrificing integrity
  • New English legislation follows changes in Scotland and Wales in early 2017

Gay men will be allowed to donate blood three months after having sex instead of a year under new rules coming into force today.

Fears over infections being passed on through donations from gay men led to an outright ban at the height of the Aids epidemic but that was cut to 12 months in 2011.

Medical advances mean the time limit is reduced further after England joined Wales and Scotland in passing the legislation earlier this year.

‘We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world,’ said Dr Gail Miflin, medical and research director at NHS Blood and Transplant. 

The rules on donation are based on up to date evidence and could provide a lifeline to many


The NHS needs 200,000 new blood donors each year

In 2015 the number of new donors fell 40%

The blood’s main components are red cells, plasma and platelets. 

Red blood cells can be stored for up to 35 days

Platelets can be stored for up to 7 days

Plasma can be stored for up to 3 years

Source: NHS Blood and Transplant 

‘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,’ said Miflin.

‘This starts with selection of donors before they give blood.

‘Everyone must answer questions on their health and lifestyle before they donate and answering these questions correctly is crucial, in order to keep blood safe.’

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT, the National Aids Trust, said: ‘It’s great to see the new blood donation rules going live. They are enabling gay men to donate three months from their last sexual activity, as opposed to the previous 12 months.’

‘They are also shortening the deferral period for other groups who were previously permanently deferred.’

This means more people can donate blood, the blood supply remains totally safe and the rules are based on up-to-date evidence, said Gold.

‘We look forward to working further with NHS Blood and Transplant as they explore the potential for further personalisation of donation rules for gay men.’ 




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