Great news from across the pond: Laws concerning UK gay blood donation have been relaxed as of today, when new rules came into effect. Whereas before the rules prevented gay men from donating blood if they’d had sex within the past year, the rules have now reduced that time period to three months.
These reformed guidelines are the result of a much-campaigned-for fight for a more fair and equal system when it comes to UK gay blood donation. Many are of course saying the new rules do not go far enough — and, to be sure, there is still not parity between gay and straight men wishing to donate blood — but it is for sure a step in the right direction.
During the AIDS epidemic, gay men were banned outright from donating blood. It wasn’t until 2011 when the laws surrounding UK gay blood donation finally allowed them to donate if they’d abstained from sex for one year.
The new three-month rule is not arbitrary: That is the time period after which the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) claims it can establish whether someone has a blood infection, including syphilis, hepatitis or HIV.
“We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world,” Dr. Gail Miflin, medical and research director at NHS Blood and Transplant, tells The Independent. “Anyone may require a blood transfusion in the future, and so it’s in all our interests to ensure that we work hard to keep blood safe for patients. “This starts with selection of donors before they give blood. Everyone must answer questions on their health and lifestyle before they donate and answering these questions correctly is crucial, in order to keep blood safe.”
“We hope this paves the way for more progress as further evidence becomes available, and we’re now urging the government to continue to regularly review the deferral periods in line with the latest evidence,” says Liam Beattie, Blood Donations Policy Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust. “It will now be vital for those who are now eligible to donate blood to be made aware of these changes.”
In the United States, FDA guidelines state a man cannot donate his blood if he has had sex with another man in the past 12 months.
These new rules regarding UK gay blood donation have come into effect the week before World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, when many cities around the globe and world governments pay respect to those lost and recommit themselves to the search for a cure.