NHS Blood and Transplant reported on Monday, 14 June, World Blood Donor Day, that any individual who wishes to give blood will be asked if they have had sex and, if so, about recent sexual behaviours.
According to the rules, anyone who has had the same sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible to donate.
Prior to that, potential donors were asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man.
Today marks a landmark change to blood donation eligibility rules! 🎉🙌— NHS Blood+Transplant (@NHSBT) June 14, 2021
These new eligibility rules will allow more men who have sex with men to donate blood, platelets and plasma.
Read more➡️ https://t.co/MsTzKHc5AY#WorldBloodDonorDay pic.twitter.com/bOW0aNudxd
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the change, calling it "a fantastic step forward in making blood donation easier, fairer & more inclusive".
I’m delighted that from today, more gay & bisexual men will be allowed to donate blood, platelets & plasma, as the NHS will make the questions it asks of all blood donors gender-neutral.— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 14, 2021
This is a fantastic step forward in making blood donation easier, fairer & more inclusive.
"Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual. We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals. All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviours which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future", Chief Nurse for Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant Ella Poppitt said.
NHS rules stipulate that individuals must never donate if:
- You are HIV positive or receiving treatment for HIV;
- You are a hepatitis B carrier;
- You are a hepatitis C carrier;
- You are HTLV positive;
- You have ever been diagnosed with syphilis, even if treated;
- You have ever injected, or been injected with, drugs; even a long time ago or only once. This includes body-building drugs, injected tanning agents and injected chemsex drugs. You may be able to give blood if a doctor prescribed the drugs.
The American Red Cross extends similar criteria, adding that approximately 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood at any given time.
In the UK, blood donation is entirely voluntary and unpaid. This is in contrast to the rules in the US, Germany, and Austria, among other nations, where donors get remunerated for giving blood.
New eligibility rules in the UK come at a time when demand for blood is increasing, said the NHS, adding that post-COVID, "as life and the NHS start to return to normal, patients need blood donors more than ever".