NHS Blood and Transplant has today announced changes to the rules on blood donation in England.
Amongst the new rules is a change that will mean that men who have sex with men will now have to wait three months since their last sexual activity before donating blood – a significant reduction from the current 12 month deferral period.
NAT was on the working group which reviewed the evidence for such changes and has long campaigned for the rules on blood donation to be improved to be evidence-based, and non-discriminatory.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “We warmly welcome these changes to the blood donation rules which use scientific evidence to reduce the restrictions on who can donate. We strongly believe that to ensure the largest possible safe blood supply, blood donation rules must be based on the latest scientific evidence, rather than prejudice.
“It’s a huge advance for gay and bisexual men to now be able to donate three months from their last sexual activity. We are also delighted that NHS Blood and Transplant have said they will now investigate how possible it is for some gay men, depending on degree of risk, to donate without even the three-month deferral.
“As important is the end to the permanent exclusion of sex workers from blood donation – such a permanent refusal was prejudice, not science, and we are pleased to see a reform for which we have campaigned for many years.”
Some changes will take longer to come in to effect as they require legislative change. This includes a removal of the permanent exclusion of people who have a history of injecting drug use. SaBTO (Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs) has recommended a deferral period of 12 months for non-prescribed injecting drug use.
Deborah added: “The recommendation to end the discriminatory exclusion from blood donation for people who have ever injected drugs must be brought in as soon as possible. We urge the Department of Health to act fast to make the necessary legislative changes so that new rules that apply here, and to activities such as tattooing, acupuncture and body piercing, can be implemented. The new recommendations are based on evidence and to not implement them is to maintain a discriminatory practice.”