Relaxed NHS rules from next summer – can gay men donate blood?

by | Jan 8 2021 | Discrimination, News & Media

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By Alex Ashcroft
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Can Gay Men Donate Blood | Read Time 5 Minutes. 

“Su Brailsford, associate medical director at NHS Blood and Transplant, stated: “Donors will no longer be asked to declare if they have had sex with another man, making the criteria for blood donation gender-neutral and more inclusive”.

The NHS blood service announced a landmark policy change which has allowed gay men to donate blood more easily. The change means that individuals regardless of their gender, who have been in a relationship for than three months will now be able to give blood from next summer. Furthermore, every individual will now be given a more individual-based risk assessment. The individual risk assessments will see all potential donors being asked questions about their sexual behaviour. Considerations will then be made against high-risk sexual behaviours, such as an individual having multiple partners.

The new criteria will require that individuals who have engaged in “chem sex” in the last 3-months are deferred. The term “chem sex” is defined as drug-taking during or before sex to enhance sexual interaction. Furthermore, the change in new criteria will also defer individuals who have been treated for syphilis in the last 12-months. The new standards aim to ensure no donors have an STI or use anti-HIV drugs such as “Prep” or “Pep”.

NHS Ambulance - can gay men donate blood New NHS policy change.
POLITICIAN Stuart Andrew STATED: “At the start of this year, the NHS said they needed 68,000 new male donors. Today, that call is answered with the achievement of one of the most pioneering policies for blood donation anywhere in the world”.

The change of the NHS policies was implemented after the FAIR’s (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk). FAIR discovered that the new deferral system would consistently maintain a safe supply of blood in the UK. The NHS Blood Transport Service commented that there is currently less than one in a million chance of not detecting Hepatitis B, C and HIV infection in a donation. The landmark policy change followed support from the Government. The Government claimed the UK had become one of the world’s first countries to implement a “more individualised risk-based approach”.

Although the policy has been updated, further work is needed to maintain inclusivity for the blood donation service. Dr Michael Brady said, “We now need to look at the restrictions in place for other groups”. The groups included former injecting drug users to assess if they can safely make blood donations.

Su Brailsford also stated that:

“We will keep collaborating with and listening to LGBT representatives, patients and current donors to make sure by summer 2021, when we bring about these changes, that our process for getting accurate information from donors about their sexual behaviours is inclusive and done well.”

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The history

Campaigners who have fought for this change have welcomed the relaxation of the new NHS rules. Ethan Spibey, the founder of the pressure group FreedomToDonate, stated:

“Almost six years ago, our group of volunteers set out to rewrite the rules that had perpetuated inequality and prevented thousands of potentially safe donors from donating for too long. Today, we welcome a pioneering new policy and are immensely proud that more people than ever will be able to give the life-saving gift of blood fairly.”

The policy change is the latest relaxation of restrictions for donors. In the past, gay men had a lifetime ban on donating blood. However, this was changed in 2011. The policy amendment in 2011 allowed gay men to donate blood if they were abstinence from sex for one year. Furthermore, the 2011 policy was later changed in 2017, which reduced the one-year time restriction to 3 months. Matt Hancock announced that the latest change “recognises individuals for the actions they take, rather than their sexual preference”.

The chief executive of Stonewall also stated: “This change will help ensure gay and bi men can donate blood”. Moreover, Stonewall also added that they would continue to work with the Government to build on the progress made, to ensure more individuals in the LGBT+ community can donate blood safely.

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Stand up against discrimination – Your fight is our fight 

It is vital that you stand up against discrimination. If you feel current policies in place are discriminatory, stand up and speak out! If it was not for the pressure group FreedomToDonate, the NHS blood donation policies may have never been amended. 

Here at LGBT Lawyers, we understand how important it is to speak up and report matters of discrimination or mistreatment. If you feel for any reason that you have been discriminated against or harassed, contact us, we can help you today. 

LGBT Lawyers offers bespoke services specifically for the LGBT community. We can refer you to an LGBT Lawyer who specialises in discrimination and who can ensure you recieve the best possible outcome. 

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