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by Jack Thomson
14 June 2021
More gay and bisexual men allowed to give blood after rule change

Entrance to the Blood Donor Centre at Lauriston Place, Edinburgh (Alan Wilson/Alamy)

More gay and bisexual men allowed to give blood after rule change

More gay and bisexual men will be allowed to give blood after eligibility rules were updated.

Changes to the questions people are asked before they are accepted as donors have come into effect today. 

The reform, implemented on World Blood Donor Day, allows more gay and bisexual men, as well as people whose partners have previously lived in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, to give blood if they meet other donation criteria. 

Questions about recent sexual activity will be the same for all donors, regardless of their sexuality.

The changes follow recommendations by the specialist research group For Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR), made up of leading medical and academic experts and LGBTI+ groups. 

The new questions will mean that people will still be unable to donate where there is evidence of recent sexual activity that could lead to a higher risk of a donor having blood-borne virus infection.

Maree Todd, public health minister, said: "I welcome the changes being made today and am grateful to everyone who currently gives blood and everyone who wants to give blood in future. Your support is vital to save lives and ensure our NHS has enough blood components to meet the needs of all those who will need a blood transfusion.

"Previous rules meant that automatic time bars were in place for a number of people, including men who have sex with men. It’s clear that such a blanket approach was simply not fair – not least to gay and bisexual men in committed relationships.

"There are also some people who have partners who previously lived in sub-Saharan Africa, but have been in the UK for a long time. 

"These changes to the questions will allow more people in these groups to donate, and continue to ensure the blood supplied to our hospitals is safe."

Scott Cuthbertson, development manager for the Equality Network, said: "I’ve been campaigning on the issue of blood donation for gay and bisexual men for over 15 years, and I welcome the support of Scottish Ministers in approving this change.

"For me this was never about a right to give, but the fact that there were many gay and bisexual men that could do so safely.

"I’m pleased the evidence, assessed by experts, has concluded that to be true, and that many thousands of gay and bisexual men will be able to donate their blood and help save lives.

"Today, during Pride Month, I’m proud to donate my blood for the first time alongside many other gay and bisexual men across the UK as the rules are changed to be fairer for all."

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