Parts of UK to lift lifetime ban on gay men donating blood
September 8th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

Parts of UK to lift lifetime ban on gay men donating blood

Gay men who have not had sex with another man in 12 months will be allowed to donate blood in parts of the UK for the first time since a ban was put in place in the 1980s in response to the spread of AIDS and HIV, the UK Department of Health announced Thursday.

Blood banks in England, Scotland and Wales have said they will allow gay men to begin giving blood if they qualify under new rules beginning on November 7. Northern Ireland is expected to announce a decision on whether they too will lift the ban soon. (The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)

"Currently, men who have ever had oral or anal sex with another man, even if a condom was used, are permanently excluded from blood donation in the UK," UK National Health Services Blood and Transport said on their website. "The change means that in future only men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will be asked not to donate blood. Men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be able to donate, subject to meeting the other donor selection criteria."

The decision follows a review of the ban by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) who studied the latest details on relevant sexual contact in relation to the safety of donating blood and completed a full review of review of overall blood donor selection criteria that is related to sexual behavior. The committee looked at the risk of infection being transmitted in blood as well as improvements in testing donated blood for diseases before reaching their conclusion to change the guidelines.

The UK Department of Health said the review found "evidence no longer supported the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men.

"With that change, the criteria for gay men falls in line with other specific groups that are 'deferred' from giving blood for 12 months since the time of a sexual encounter that is considered to carry heightened infection risks. That group includes whose who have had sex with anyone who has injected themselves with drugs, those who have slept with a prostitute or those who have slept with a man who has slept with another man," NHS Blood and Transport said.

“NHS Blood and Transplant’s priority as a blood service is to provide a safe and sufficient supply of blood for patients," Dr. Lorna Williamson, the  Medical and Research Direct of NHS Blood and Transplant said in a statement. "We welcome this review and its conclusions.  It gives us an opportunity to broaden our donor acceptance on the basis of the latest scientific evidence. “It is essential that our donor selection rules are based on good evidence to maintain their credibility with donors, and this change gives us an updated policy that is proportionate to the current risk.

“The SaBTO review concluded that the safety of the blood supply would not be affected by the change and we would like to reassure patients receiving transfusions that the blood supply is as safe as it reasonably can be and amongst the safest in the world. There has been no documented transmission of a blood-borne virus in the UK since 2005, with no HIV transmission since 2002.”

NHS Blood and Transplant said on their website that they know there is frustration that people are treated as groups when it comes to blood donation, but that it is necessary for safety to treat groups that may have larger risks of infections in blood with special care.

"The Blood Services are therefore required to follow deferral rules that estimate the statistical risk of certain groups based on behavior," they said. "We are sorry for any inadvertent offense this may cause."

The move comes as global perspectives are beginning to change and countries are re-examining their rules for blood donation. England, Scotland and Wales will join Australia Sweden and Japan in requiring a one-year gap between sexual intercourse between two men before they are eligible to give blood. South African has introduced a six-month gap between sexual intercourse between two males and their donation of blood. The United States examined lifting the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in 2010 but the ban was upheld by a federal committee.

soundoff (273 Responses)
  1. Jim

    I may not be gay but I'm called gregarious by my friends. Am I also not eligible to donate? Just curious.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat2u

    Wow, That is truly not cool. They're going to take the chance of placing contaminated blood into their system ? That seems equivalent to asking patients who will be receiving this blood to play russian roullette.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake M

      They do that with literally every single blood donation, period. There's a chance it's type is mislabeled, which will kill someone. There's a chance someone's strep throat is in remission, which could pass on the bacterial load. There's a chance they simply lied about one of the "high risk" activities. The chance of a man having AIDS for over a year without knowing and without it showing on a test, is basically in the same ballpark as those.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      All blood is tested before it is put into a donor anyway. Everyone should be allowed to give blood because we are all at risk of getting HIV and should all be getting tested (unless you're settled, married, etc. but even then you could still contract it if you ever come into contact with HIV positive blood through an accident or something). People need to get out of the 1980s. This is 100% discrimination.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mathew

      Yes because they don't screen it before giving it to people, you are ignorant do you research moron

      September 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • skarrlette

      I do not find your comment ignorant in fact, I find fallacy with the whole medical profession. People are not perfect some blood might slip through without getting tested. So why make it more of a danger? WHY ADD TO THE DANGER? Their is nothing ignorant in that in fact you blanket use of the word for every situation is what is ignorant. The fact is aids is more prevalent in gay men, that is the facts deal with it. It has nothing to do with discrimination at all.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rbnlegnd

      Even if you are married, settled, etc, you are not 100% guaranteed free of HIV. Your partner may be cheating, or may have been exposed to the virus prior to meeting you (when they were a bad person) and simply have not yet developed symptoms. Back in the day they said it could be dormant for ten years, we have now seen cases where it is dormant forever. Asking people if they have been exposed is pointless, blood tests are the only way to know. Often the people who are at the highest risk are the ones who are also the most in denial, and report themselves as being perfectly ok.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreQuiteDisgusting

      @Skarrlette, why don't we ban blood from black women as well? Since they are most likely to contract the disease. Do some research my dear.

      September 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AuggieDoggy

    I'm going in for the first pint during my surgery – not. Woof! Think ya'd want tTa know who gave it to you? Bet they won't tell you one way or the other, for fear they'll ahh-fennnd somebody. Seems someones' hurt feeling outweigh safety and health concerns.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lady "D"

      You've said it best!!!!!

      September 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • doggy doo

      no, actually the opposite, as the article states. they had the ban up until now because they felt it was safer, and had a disclaimer apology for offending anyone in the process of putting safety first. now, based on science, and their same standards, they are able to lift that ban. not because they're afraid of hurting feeling. you're ignorant and need to learn reading comprehension.

      September 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rbnlegnd

      Health and safety concerns are great, but that's not what you are talking about. You want something to soothe your fears. The reality is, all blood is tested prior to use. That's what keeps you safe, not some pointless and totally unverifiable questions. Being active with another man is not what causes the disease, it is caused by a virus, and that virus can be detected, not with a questionaire, but with a blood test.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdigilio

      God forbid you are ever in dire need of a blood transfusion. What are you going to do – hold things up until they can tell you who the donor is?

      September 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Marianne

    I don't know what the big deal is. Anyone donating blood here in the UK always gets a free HIV test.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Castamir

      There's a window up to half a year when HIV tests do not yet show anything, yet you may infect others.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • DVDA

      Castamir – that's completely false. Someone who thinks they've been exposed can know with a good amount of confidence in a number of weeks. After a few months, that confidence level (scientifically speaking) increases dramatically. Please don't spread false information.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rbnlegnd

      But, if no one spreads false "information" how can we justify panic?

      Four times as many people die of the flu and pneumonia, but no one panics about shaking hands with someone who is coughing and sniffling.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachelle

      Rbnlegnd, technically, NO ONE dies from AIDS or HIV. It's often pneumonia that finishes 'em off. And who usually dies from the flu or pneumonia? People in third world countries, or people with CRAPPY immune systems, aka young children, the elderly, and people with things like AIDS. Saying how many people die from the flu and pneumonia actually negates your point, as horrible as it is. And yes, we should do more to fight things rotovirus that causes diarrhea kills many children in 3rd world countries, but few in the U.S. care because the reason people die from diarrhea, the flu, and pneumonia in the US is BECAUSE THEY HAVE AIDS

      September 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brittany

    I thought they were supposed to test the blood for any problems anyway? So any blood ban on gay men and women is crazy. This is still discrimination but it's a step in the right direction.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lady "D"

      Discrimination??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??????????? LOL!!! YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!

      September 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdigilio

      It is the very definition of descrimination, Lady D. Maybe you need to spend more time with dictionary and less typing in caps online. Does the D stand for Dumb?

      September 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      There's never been a ban on blood from gay women. Lesbians have the LOWEST rate of HIV and AIDS out of any demographic. Straight men and straight women have much higher rates of HIV and AIDS than lesbians. As a point in fact... you need to read the ACTUAL rules from the American Red Cross. If you are "a woman who has had s.ex with a man who has had s.ex with a man" then you are banned from donating. That's right! Straight women who have had male partners who have had a fling in the past with another male are technically banned from donating.

      In fact, blood from a lesbian who has never had s.ex with a man and who has never done drugs is the statistically SAFEST blood you can find. Fancy that.

      Oh, and I happen to be a monogamous lesbian, happily married to the same woman for years, who has never done drugs, has never been promiscuous, and has never had a single STD. I've been a regular blood donor since I was 17.

      September 9, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. John Simms

    This is not a good idea. Oh and I hope they keep the blood over there and don't import it over here.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Drill Press

    Please explain how giving blood is a "right"? The discrimination is proper.

    Tests can not give a 100% guarantee that the blood is not tainted.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      But ANYBODY can get HIV, so targeting gays only is discrimination. It's actually the African American population that has the highest rate of HIV (in US, don't know about UK) yet any African American can give blood. Why aren't they unfairly targeted?

      September 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mathew

      Learn to spell, cannot is one word!

      September 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      @Pam. You forgot an information piece of information. The GAY African American population currently has the greatest infection rate increase in the US. It is the GAY population as a whole who have the highest rates on infection. Banning their blood makes sense becuase of the outrageous infection rates in a comparatively small population.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hopey McChange

    Great.. enjoy your future children's birth defects.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      @ Hopey. I hope you enjoy being a small minded moron.

      September 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nina

      Your comment makes zero sense. Blood transfusions (even if they are from-gasp!!–donors who are gay) do not lead to birth defects.

      September 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KG

    So, are women who have an*l s*x with a man prevented from donated blood?

    September 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KG


      September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nickygirl

      Thank you! I never understood that rule! Ok, I understand micro-tears happen during the act and that increased the risk of transmission, but there's no gender differance so a girl who has that type of contact runs the same risk as a man..but the man is turned away. Same micro-tears can happen to women during normal, straight relations with a man so...seriously, we can remove the archaic ban!

      September 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      I hope you two are kidding. It has nothing to do with the kind of s_x you have. It has to do with infection rates in the gay population. All you have to do is read a little and know this. Stop blindly putting on your red ribbon and going to your gay pride parades and friggen read a bit about it.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheawhat

      no there are a bunch of questions that are asked before a person is allowed to give blood. The problem isn't with the policies, it's with the individuals lack of integrity. I mean if you are high risk or may be then don't give blood. They don't give you a house for giving blood. Also because people aren't honest anyway and most don't get tested, we don't know which population has the highest rate of infection anyway. They are doing the best they can but they are basing scientific studies on social probabilities. IF you answers the questions honestly that should be a good barometer or just don't give.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdigilio

      disco_fever's facts are more tainted than the blood.

      September 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      Hopefully people actually go and look it up and rad a little for themselves. The facts are on my side. If you are gay, you are much more likely to have HIV than a straight individual. Like it or not, that is absolutely true. Sorry jdigilio.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Peter

    Well Mr. Smith, you will need a blood transfusion. No thanks, I can die without it.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Not buying it

    If they want untainted blood, how about they ban anyone who's done the deed, both genders? Last I checked, plenty of people get blood borne STDs and other diseases from plain regular hetero encounters. Maybe just people that had it in the last 12 months, period. Protected, unprotected, won't matter if it's actual concern about blood safety. Oh, wait. It's not concern about disease. It's concern the blood will make you gay. Right. Forgot about that.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      You should look at infection rates before you start blabbing on the internetz...

      September 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not buying it

      Yet women who engage in identical BLEEPual behaviour are allowed to donate, even though it's equal risk? It's not about risk mitigation or they'd include that as well. That's the problem. Women practicing unsafe BLEEP are still a high risk group. The rates have been on the rise among women, not declining or staying stable. Soaring infection rates can't possibly be a factor of increasing risk though, right? Because they're not gay or biBLEEPual men.

      September 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      You are still overlooking (or refusing to state) the obvious. The infection numbers in the gay population are incredibly high when compared to the general population. It is not that hard to understand but you refuse to let anything guide your thoughts except for the idea of discrimination.

      September 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. disco_fever

    People thinking this is discrimation have truely been duped by the media into believing HIV is not still primarily a gay disease. While certainly HIV CAN strike anyone, the incidence of the disease is primarily in the gay community. And when you compare the percent population that is gay and then compare their rate of infection, it is quite clear. All you have to do is search and read about HIV infection rates in European countries and the US.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mer

    reserve the donated blood for gay transfusions....problem solved...everything politically correct!

    September 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      >"if they qualify under new rules beginning on November 7"

      September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dee

    CAREFUL!! If you put gay blood into a straight man, his heart turns black and HE then becomes gay!! lol *rollin my eyes*

    September 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Dang, who gets the toaster oven then? The Doc, or the doner?

      September 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. frank

    8/28/2011: "The head of Taiwan's Department of Health (DOH) has instructed National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) to take remedial measures for a mistake that led to organs from an HIV carrier being transplanted into five patients."

    Yeah, I think that blood tests may not be perfect....

    September 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert 2

      The blood test was fine, this was a case of human error (as is the case with many things).

      September 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nina

      You conveniently forgot an important part of the story:

      "On Saturday, NTUH admitted that its medical team did not follow standard operating procedures in carrying out the transplants. The team failed to check test results on the computer before transplanting organs from an HIV-infected donor into four patients Aug 24, getting the information instead by phone that resulted in the team thinking the organs were HIV-free. A fifth organ was sent to Tainan's National Cheng Kung University Hospital and given to a patient there."

      The test results weren't faulty. The transplant team are the ones who screwed up.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreQuiteDisgusting

      You should probably include all of the information, rather than what supports your bigotry. Mkay? Thanks.

      September 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
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