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. Mmmmm

    Plague times a coming...

    September 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dina

      you said it !! could not agree more !!

      September 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Youre It

      YIIIIPES!!! You just looked in the mirror again and realized that!!

      September 8, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mmmmm

    Definitely bad blood...tourist and jetsetters traveling nylon should beware..

    September 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jquest78

    This change in law is definitely a step in the right direction, however, I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. Even with the new law, some people will still be discriminated against. I don't understand why gay men will be required to be celibate for one year. Why can't they allow all gay men to donate blood, and then the health department just test it for disease? I realize that some infections may not show up immediately after blood is tested, but why not save it and quarantine it for a predetermined amount of time and then test it? They also need to lift the ban here in the US.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joker429

      "They also need to lift the ban in the U.S.".................Well, before they do, let's have a referendum and let poeple vote on it. The vote will most likely show that in this particular case, the government is already leaning way left of the wishes of the people. To put innocent peoples lives at stake, because we need to feel all "politically correct" is BS.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • PC my Aunt Fanny

      Political correctness has nothing to do with it. Common sense has everything to do with it.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pscyclepath

    Oddly enough, the American Red Cross prohibits blood donations from anyone who has lived in the United Kingdom any length of time, as well from veterans and their families who served in the U.S. Army in Europe any time between 1980 and 1990. The concern is possible exposure to Creutzfeld-Jakob or "mad cow" disease. With an entire country's population banned like that, I guess the Brits need to come up with blood donors from somewhere...

    September 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeremy

    This is like the third story I've seen on CNN today of Europe (yes some don't consider the UK part of Europe but you know what I mean...) putting liberal political correctness in front of common sense.

    September 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ron

    That's kind of ironic. I can't donate blood because I lived in the UK for 8 months back in 1980. Mad cow disease is the reason. Will I ever donate again. I can't even sign the organ doner card on my licence.

    September 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thank God for small favors

      Moooooooooo ! Grrrrr [the mad part]

      September 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dina

    Man or woman it shouldnt matter, if you are gay , yes you do have a higher % of getting infected or infecting someone else. If this proceeds and continues their can be an outbreak. this is why research is done ! No Andrew we dont all carry a virus, we all have the ability to produce a virus typically why our bodies have a bad response to flu's and colds, and we can find a cure for something big and yet still waiting on finding a cure for the common cold !

    September 8, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jdub

    What a disgusting article. Thats pretty stupid to let gay men with aids and other nasty diseases give blood. Really how stupid can you be? Nobody wants to catch that stuff

    September 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      How incredibly unintelligent of you. Do you receive services for your extremely low mental capacity? If not, you should.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned

      jdub, Agreed! The so-called "Experts" get more stupid by the minute....and we depend on these idiots for health care.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joker429

      Yes, you would be pretty stupid to let those small groups in our society, known to carry deadly diseases donate blood. It seems as though those like Nick are much more concerned that they have a civil right to donate their contaminated blood, so they will not have to feel "less than".

      September 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kirstyloo

      Please read more about this issue and don't let your biases cloud the science. Yes, HIV can be transmitted through blood. Yes, we have a very good test to detect individuals infected with HIV; however, it can take a few weeks to a month after the infection for the test to work well. By putting a 1 year ban in place, it provides the necessary protection.

      September 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      They still test ALL of the blood that gets donated. HIV and AIDS aren't picky – everyone can get them!

      September 8, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      I know several gay men with NO STD's... and a whole bunch of straight people who have some pretty nasty STD's. I'd rather have gay men without diseases donating blood than straight people who assume that because they're straight, they're clean.

      September 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Concerned


    September 8, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Straight people get HIV. Straight people get AIDS. Straight people get Hep-A, Hep-B, and Hep-C. Straight people get HPV and syphilis. So, based on that, let's ban straight people from donating blood, too. Obviously, we can't have all these disgusting, diseased straight people risking the blood supply just because they want to donate.

      Here's a news flash: People who donate blood are folks who have every reason to know that they're not carrying any infectious diseases. I know several gay men who have no STD's. How do they know? The same way straight people know. They don't do drugs and they don't have casual or unprotected relations. Not every gay person is promiscuous or a druggie.

      Besides, at this stage of the game, HIV and AIDS is becoming more and more common in the African-American population. What should we do? Ban black people from donating? That's ludicrous.

      Healthy, disease-free people should donate. If you have any chance of having contracted any infectious agent (including things as simple as sinus infections), don't donate.

      And to all you straight folks on the boards here... unless you have NEVER had s_ex (protected OR unprotected) with a partner that you weren't 100% familiar with, who had also never had s_ex with a partner he or she was unfamiliar with, then you have no right to talk here.

      September 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. imnotgay

    Maybe this way people will say they are gay, then they can toss the stuff in the trash. sorry, nothing against gays but aids is a pretty big problem for those who are.. gay people probably don't even want that blood

    September 8, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • yesyouare


      September 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Amazing !

    AIDS goes away after 12 months! Yay!!! Ecxept there bo such thing as an AIDS test. They have a harder time finding the virus than your own antibodies do. That's why an "Aids Test" is nothing more than a count of your antibodies. If your count is off-the-chart high, only one thing known to science can account for it: you are carrying the aids virus. And we've known for over a decade that the virus can remain dormant and UNDETECTABLE for periods exceeding 10 Yrs, and that the virus is found in virtually every fluid that your body seceretes if you are a carrier. The :J-pan-ese use very expensive synthetic blood that they developed years ago for this very reason.

    September 8, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark9988

    And this is on the honor system, then? Common sense takes a holiday.

    September 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Amazing !

    FACT: according to a recent study aired on NPR a few weeks ago, fully two percent of Amrica's hetero population now have AIDS. When aids was first discovered here in 1982, ALL of the first few dozen cases involved gay men. surgeons gen. Dr. C. Evrett Koop warned pres. reagan that they should be quarantined, for fear that AIDS would quicly spreadt to the hetero community via bi's and needle sharers if this was not done. Reagn fired him, and a woman who "looked the other way" was hired to replace him. Koop was right...AIDS is now PANDEMIC, according to our own Centers for Disease Control...not "just" an epidemic.

    September 8, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    What a bunch of morons. Are you aware that the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are in african american females? Not the gays. You people are ridiculous!

    September 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nick

    and idiots like you.

    September 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
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