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. FauxNews

    Hopefully, they will also stop discriminating against drug users who sell their blood for money...that is, the ones who swear they haven't used drugs or shared needles for 12 months. Don't worry, it's safe to trust them.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Josh

    So, black women are actually at the greatest risk now for contracting HIV. Does that mean we stop taking donations from black women too because it's risky. Are we just banning the highest risk group no matter what level of risk it is? The whole idea of a ban is dumb.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      You answered your own question. Black women are currently at the highest risk of infection. True. BUT, you failed to think about what population currently has the greatest percentage of HIV infections. Ahhh. Got it?

      September 8, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Harpman

    Oh, give me some of that blood. That's about the only way a straight guy can contract aids.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |

    I don't understand how alcoholics and drugs addicts can get MONEY from the blood banks by donating blood, and a gay man cannot give blood. If I were gay I'd say p*ss off....and not even want to donate.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Harpman

    Back in the old days, most people were in a "low risk" group. With todays declining morals, I'm afraid they are in a minority. We live in the "anything goes" society. If it feels good, do it. I lived then and I live now and I promise you, it was better then.

    September 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Parkersmom

    Nice one Magruber. You almost got me, but I just kept thinking "Is this guy for real? This has to be a joke." Then I got to the end. And I giggled...

    September 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Konstantin

    Because of the lack of nuclei and organelles, mature red blood cells do not contain DNA and cannot synthesize any RNA, and consequently cannot divide and have limited repair capabilities

    September 8, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Erik

    Western Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and some of Latin America are so far ahead of the US socially. The US can't seem to take Christianity out of government, even though we aren't supposed to endorse any religion, implicitly or explicitly.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      WTH does that have to do with this article?

      September 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joker429

      There are more people whom consider us ahead of those nations, than those whom consider us behind. This story is about common sense blood donation screening, not why the gay community hates God!

      September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • penisia

      i'm almost positive that Christianity has nothing to do with gay blood donation

      September 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • notquer

      Wow what a disgusting article! Im not going to the UK now. What if I need a blood transfusion... then ill have aids or some other nasty gay disease

      September 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rich

    What about black women? I've read that they have the highest risk.. why are they not excluded too? Anybody???

    September 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • disco_fever

      What does a group at the highest risk of contracting HIV have to do with this? Seriously. THINK! We are discussing what group currently has the highest percentage of infections. Guess what group that is.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      uhhhh disco_fever....that would be black people and africans to answer your question. Way to disprove your own idiotic argument.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Laurie

    Not very prudent. I would suggest people have their own blood saved for times in need.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ames

    Bloodless surgery is the way to go. It's fast becoming the new gold standard.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ames

      September 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Darren

    Let me get this right UK; If I am a gay man in a committed monogamous relationship I would fail your criteria. But if I were a woman who dates multiple people and enjoys being penitrated anally, I would pass your criteria. And you're asking the public for DONATIONS of something you need! I don't think insulting potential donors is the best way forward. In fact, why would I give my precious blood to make well people who dispise me? I'll keep my blood, thank-you!

    September 8, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rams


      September 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Well Said !!

      September 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Your not an idiot by the way. You are absolutely right. These must be little kids that don't understand even what you wrote.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • How kind of you...

      If you're indeed a limp-wrist, keeping your blood is the best thing for all involved. Thank you for your considerate restraint.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joker429

    Protecting the blood supply from those most likely to carry unwanted diseases, such as AIDS, is not evil, and supporting common sense practices for minimizing cross contamination does not mean you area racist,or a bigot, it simply means you have common sense. Political correctness has no place in this argument.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anotheralt

      Fun fact: My being gay doesn't make me any more likely to have HIV/AIDS. Take a stats course.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Fun fact: even the most liberal university studies have found gays have a far higher incidence of HIV/AIDS. Political correctness does not equal facts.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anotheralt

    The rule is functionally meaningless. Anyone can lie about their past encounters for whatever reason. I might lie because I'm a bad, sick person, or I might lie because I'm a good, healthy person who wants to donate blood. The blood bank isn't going to make you prove that meet that particular criterion. Because the rule has no functional use, it's only use must therefore be to divide society for no good reason.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. K from AZ

    Get ready for an HIV epidemic from tainted blood! Way to go UK, needed to thin out the population did we!

    September 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
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