UK to ease LGBTQ blood restrictions, bans PrEP users, those from certain countries

The NHS has announced that LGBTQ+ men in the UK who are sexually active will now be able to donate blood, platelets, and plasma. This is to begin on Monday after new eligibility criteria goes into force on World Blood Donor Day.

“Today marks a landmark change to blood donation eligibility rules!,” says the NHS Blood + Transplant Twitter. “These new eligibility rules will allow more men who have sex with men to donate blood, platelets and plasma.”

Clinics will now be required to consider every person’s sexual behavior instead of applying a blanket ban on LGBTQ+ men. Any donor who has had the same sexual partner in the past three months will now be eligible to donate. This rule will allow more LGBTQ+ men to donate blood without discriminating against them in the process, according to the U.K.’s National Health Service.

All individuals who have had a new sexual partner, who have had anal sex, who have had possible exposure to an STI, or who have used PrEP or PEP in the past three months, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, will be ineligible to donate blood. 

“This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual,” said Ella Poppitt, chief nurse for blood donation at U.K.’s National Health Services’ Blood and Transplant, in a press release.

 “We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals.”

She goes on to say: “All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviors which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future.”

The change comes after recommendations from the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualized Risk) Report, a steering group commissioned by the NHS, which includes representatives from LGBTQ+ rights organizations and sexual health groups.

The U.K. chapter of the LGBTQ rights group Stonewall, which was part of FAIR, approved of the change. “We welcome today’s historic change, which will help ensure more gay and bi men can donate blood and represents an important step towards a donation selection policy entirely based on an individualized assessment of risk,” said Robbie de Santos, Stonewall’s director of communications and external affairs.

“We want to see a blood donation system that allows the greatest number of people to donate safely and we will continue to work with Government to build on this progress and ensure that more people, including LGBT+ people, can donate blood safely in the future.”

However, some groups have voiced concern over the restricting of blood donation for three months if the potential donor has had sex with a partner who is in or from “parts of the world where HIV/ADIS is very common. This includes most countries in Africa.”

In a statement, the groups have stated that the restriction is still vague and misleading. Further, the groups said, “It also disproportionately impacts on Black people in the U.K., particularly those of Black African background.”

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