Heath officials in the UK announced Monday that the rules on blood donation by gay and bisexual men will be relaxed in 2021. The government called it a “landmark change” and the guidelines will go into effect next summer.
Under the new rules, donors who have had a sexual partner and have been with their sexual partner for more than three months can donate blood regardless of their gender, the gender of their partner, or the type of sex.
The change is based on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) and a report published on Monday by the group “On the assessment of individualized risk” (FAIR). The report suggested moving away from a blanket three-month moratorium for men who had sex with men and instead identified a wider range of “highest risk behaviors” that apply to all donors regardless of sexuality.
Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary, called the change historic.
“This landmark blood donation change is safe and allows many more people previously excluded by donor selection criteria to take the opportunity to save lives,” Hancock said in a statement.
Donors are no longer asked to state whether they have had sex with another man or their sexuality, making donating blood gender neutral and more inclusive.
Ethan Spibey, founder of FreedomToDonate, a group advocating a change in donation policy, welcomed the decision.
“We have been committed to updating the restrictions on men who have sex with men (MSM) who donate blood for over 6 years and we warmly welcome this announcement,” Spibey said in a statement. “This means the UK has one of the most advanced blood donation policies in the world and more people than ever before can safely donate for those who need it.”
In the US, the FDA does not allow men to donate plasma if they have had sex with another man in the past three months. Bravo gay star Andy Cohen said in July that he had restrictionsDonating plasma is “discriminatory”. The presenter of Watch What Happens Live, who had COVID-19 earlier this year, told The View that a doctor told him he had “robust” antibodies but that he could not pass them on to people who use them need.
in theThe FDA relaxed blood donation rules for gay men in response to the “urgent and immediate need for blood” resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. For more than three decades, until just five years ago, a general ban on all gay or bisexual men banned blood donation. Federal health authorities lifted the lifelong ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men in 2015, but retained a one-year restriction. The lifelong ban was introduced in the early years of the AIDS crisis and was intended to protect the blood supply from a disease that was then poorly understood.
Coronavirus survivors may have antibodies that could help others fight the virus. The American Red Cross continues to remind the public that the US will continue to need blood and platelet donation during the pandemic.