01:55 GMT24 July 2021
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    A change of blood donation rules in England, Wales, and Scotland means that donors will no longer be asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man.

    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.

    ​UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the change, calling it "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".

    Tags:
    National Health Service (NHS), blood donation
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