- 08 сентября 2011, 17:37
The ban on blood donation by gay men was put in place in the 1980s as a response to the spread of Aids and HIV
Gay men will be able to give blood when government restrictions are lifted later this year, the Department of Health has said.
A lifetime ban on blood donation by men who have had sex with another man was put in place in the UK in the 1980s as a response to the spread of Aids and HIV.
But following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (Sabto), men who have not had homosexual sex within a year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria.
The recommendation has been accepted by the health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales, and the ban will be lifted on 7 November.
Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will still not be eligible to donate blood, the DoH said.
Sabto's advisory panel, comprising leading experts and patient groups carried out its review based on the latest available evidence and found it could no longer support the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men.
They considered the risk of infection being transmitted in blood, attitudes of potential donors in complying with the selection criteria and improvements in testing of donated blood.
The change means the criteria for men who have had sex with men will be in line with other groups who are deferred from giving blood for 12 months due to infection risks associated with sexual behaviours.
These include women who have slept with a man who has had sex with another man, people who have slept with prostitutes and those who have had sex with anyone who has injected themselves with drugs.
Current guidelines say people can never give blood if they have had syphilis, HTVL (Human T-lymphotropic virus), hepatitis B or C, and a lifetime ban is also in place for people who have ever worked as a prostitute or anyone who has injected themselves with drugs.
The announcement was welcomed by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, but he said it fell short of lifting the ban on gay men who always use condoms.
He said: "Although the new policy is a big improvement on the existing discriminatory rules, a 12-month ban is still excessive and unjustified."
The activist who launched the first campaign against the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors in 1991 added: "Most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. If they always have safe sex with a condom, have only one partner and test HIV negative, their blood is safe to donate.
"They can and should be allowed to help save lives by becoming donors."
Public health minister Anne Milton said: "Blood donations are a lifeline, and many of us would not have loved ones with us today if it was not for the selfless act of others.
"Our blood service is carefully managed to maintain a safe and sufficient supply of blood for transfusions.
"Appropriate checks based on robust science must be in place to maintain this safety record and the committee's recommendation reflects this.
"It is important that people comply with all donor selection criteria, which are in place to protect the health of both donors and transfusion recipients."
The change will be implemented by both NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in England and North Wales and the Blood Services of Scotland and Wales.