Review into UK ban on gay men giving blood

Campaign groups say stopping gay men who have had sex in the past 12 months from donating blood is 'discriminatory'

A review has been launched into a UK-wide law which stops gay men from donating blood for 12 months after having sex.

A blanket ban on gay men giving blood was imposed at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The law was amended in 2011 in England, Scotland and Wales, but still prevents gay men who have had sex in the past 12 months from donating blood. Northern Ireland only switched to the 12-month window earlier this month.

Safety of blood supply

The review is being carried out by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, which advises UK health departments on ensuring the safety of blood, cells, tissues and organs for transfusion and transplantation.

Campaign groups have long called for the ban to be lifted, with Stonewall branding it ‘discriminatory and rooted in prejudice, not medical evidence’.

But RCN public health forum chair Jason Warriner said the issue was a matter of patient safety, rather than homophobia.

He said: ‘Safety of the blood supply is, as it should be, the priority.

‘I imagine the review will look at all the evidence and scientific advances made since the last change in 2011.’

Screening tests

The reasoning behind the 12-month rule is that anyone with a recent infection who gives blood may have levels of disease that cannot be picked up by current screening tests.

Of the 6,151 new cases of HIV in the UK 2014, 54% (3,360) were among gay men.

Similar laws apply in the United States, where gay men have been prevented from giving blood to victims of the Orlando massacre.

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