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Gay men to be able to give blood

Gay men will be able to give blood when Government restrictions are lifted later this year, the Department of Health has confirmed.

A lifetime ban on blood donation by men who had had sex with another man was put in place in the UK in the 1980s as a response to the spread of Aids and HIV.

But following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (Sabto), men who have not had homosexual sex within a year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria.

The recommendation has been accepted by the health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales, and the ban will be lifted on November 7.

Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will still not be eligible to donate blood, the DoH said.

Sabto's advisory panel, comprising leading experts and patient groups carried out its review based on the latest available evidence and found it could no longer support the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men.

They considered the risk of infection being transmitted in blood, attitudes of potential donors in complying with the selection criteria and improvements in testing of donated blood.

The change means the criteria for men who have had sex with men will be in line with other groups who are deferred from giving blood for 12 months due to infection risks associated with sexual behaviours. These include women who have slept with a man who has had sex with another man, people who have slept with prostitutes and those who have had sex with anyone who has injected themselves with drugs.

Current guidelines say people can never give blood if they have had syphilis, HTVL (Human T-lymphotropic virus), hepatitis B or C, and a lifetime ban is also in place for people who have ever worked as a prostitute or anyone who has injected themselves with drugs.

The announcement was welcomed by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, but he said it fell short of lifting the ban on gay men who always use condoms. He said: "Although the new policy is a big improvement on the existing discriminatory rules, a 12-month ban is still excessive and unjustified."


From Belfast Telegraph