The UK’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended the policy changes after deciding that new testing systems were accurate and donors were good at complying with the rules, reports BBC.
“Technologies to pick up the presence of the virus have greatly improved, so we can now pick up viruses at a much earlier stage in the infection, and therefore it’s much easier to tell if a blood donor has the virus,” said the advisory committee’s Prof James Neuberger.
Improved NHS testing measures can now establish whether someone has a blood infection such as HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis, within three months.
Now, potential donors will have to abstain from sexual activity for only 3 months, instead of the previous 12. This new policy will affect men who have sex with men (MSMs), sex workers and people who have sex with high-risk partners.
The changes will come into effect at blood donation centres in Scotland in November, and in early 2018 in England.
The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood (which preceded the one-year deferral) was lifted across England, Scotland and Wales in November, 2011.
Last year, Northern and Southern Ireland both overturned lifetime bans on gay men or MSMs donating blood and replaced them with a 12-month deferral policy, where a potential donor would have to abstain from sexual contact for a year before being elegible to donate.
After the changes to Irish blood donation policy, advocates were quick to point out that a 12-month deferral was still discriminatory. “The one-year deferral period does however still discriminate against many gay and bisexual men because of who they are, when there is no scientific evidence to show that they should be excluded,” GLEN director Brian Sheehan said in June, 2016.
“For example, a male couple in a committed long term relationship will continue to be denied the opportunity to donate blood.”
© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.