On Monday, September 18, the government in Wales announced that they will lift the restrictions on donations of tissue, surgical bone and stem cells that prevented gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men from donating.
The decision comes three years after the government introduced changes to the eligibility criteria for blood donations, allowing all people, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, to become donors. The process now entails questions regarding sexual behaviours for anyone who wishes to donate blood and has allowed many members of the LGBTQ+ community to do so.
The lift on the remaining restrictions on donations of tissue, surgical bone and stem cells follows a review by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group, which included representatives from UK blood services, medical experts and LGBTQ+ groups.
Tissue and cell donations can be life-changing for patients who are in need of repairing or rebuilding their bodies. Moreover, bone marrow donations also allow lifesaving treatments for some types of cancer, blood and immune system diseases.
Tissue and cell donations play an important part in modern medicine and can save people’s lives.
Restrictions preventing some LGBTQ+ people from donating tissue, surgical bone and stem cells will now be lifted in Wales.???????
— Welsh Government Health and Social Care (@WGHealthandCare) September 18, 2023
Announcing the government’s decision to lift the restrictions on tissue and stem cell donations, Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said in a statement: “Wales had agreed to lift the restrictions which had prevented MSM donating blood. I am pleased to announce the implementation of the FAIR III recommendations will extend this to tissue and cell donations.”
“The changes will ensure a fairer and more up to date assessment of risk is applied to all donors,” she said, adding that the new recommendations “will change the questions asked to MSM donors and MSM partner donors to a gender-neutral risk-based approach and will create a more inclusive donation process within Wales.”
Interim Chief Scientific Officer for the Welsh Blood Service, Tracey Rees, also released on the occasion, saying: “We were proud to be one of the first countries in the world to introduce the recommendations of the FAIR steering group in 2020.”
“We are delighted our work with the FAIR steering group has led to further changes to the regulations around tissue and cell donation in the UK,” she added. She also explained that the changes would improve the “safety of tissue and cell donation thanks to the introduction of fairer eligibility criteria.”
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