Scotland

Blood donation rules ease for gay and bisexual men

Man giving blood donation Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Currently gay and bisexual men cannot give blood within 12 months of having sex with another man

Changes making it easier for gay and bisexual men to give blood have been announced by the Scottish government.

The current deferral period means that men cannot give blood within 12 months of having sex with another man.

However, this will be reduced to three months under the change, ordered by Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell.

LGBTI campaigners have welcomed the measure but said it does not completely eliminate "discrimination in blood donation".

The change will be implemented by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS).

It follows recommendations from the UK's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

The new rules, which also apply to commercial sex workers and people who have sex with partners classed as high-risk, are being introduced in England as well.

They are likely to come into affect in Scotland this November.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Campaigners believe the rule change would allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood

Ms Campbell said: "The safety of blood supplies is paramount, and we have one of the safest supplies in the world.

"After carefully examining the latest scientific evidence, SaBTO has concluded that shortening the current 12-month deferral period for men who have had sex with another man to three months since they last had sex with a man can be implemented safely.

"That, along with the other changes proposed by SaBTO, will allow more people to give blood."

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.

Ms Campbell said she sympathised with the strength of feeling on the part of gay and bisexual men about the current deferral policies and said the SNBTS has been asked to look into the possibility of individualised risk assessments.

Moving forwards

Scott Cuthbertson, from LGBTI charity Equality Network, said the rule changes were a "significant step forward" and would allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

"We remain concerned, however, that many low risk gay and bisexual men, for example those in monogamous relationships, will still not be allowed to donate under this new policy," he said.

"Crucially as part of these rule changes SNBTS have committed to explore ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced.

"I'm pleased to have been asked by SNBTS to be a member of a new sub-group which will look at how an individual risk assessment, rather than a blanket deferment, could be made a reality."

Image copyright Getty Images

Changes have also been proposed for people who have undergone acupuncture, piercing, tattooing and an endoscopy - and for those with a history of non-prescribed injecting drug use.

These will have to be implemented at a later date as they will require changes in UK legislation, officials said.

Moira Carter, from the SNBTS, said: "We welcome the review by SaBTO and the recommendations - the updates for donor eligibility will allow more people the opportunity to give blood.

"The changes take into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, along with evidence supporting the reliability of the blood screening tests we use."

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