From today, gay and bi men will be able to donate blood under a newly reduced deferral period of three months.
In July 2017, after an extensive review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), the Government announced a landmark change to the blood donation policy for men who have sex with men.
Gay and bi men now need to have had no sexual activity for three months before donating blood, rather than the highly exclusionary 2011 policy of 12 months.
This change in deferral period followed renewed calls from Stonewall, Freedom to Donate, Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust and others for a full review to be carried out by SaBTO.
This change in policy is a major step forward
While this change in policy is a major step forward, most gay and bi men will continue to be excluded from donating blood.
Like many others, we want to see a blood donation system which allows as many people as possible to donate safely and regularly.
We are calling for a blood donation system which is based on an individualised risk assessment of donors, rather than the exclusion of an entire group.
We want to see a blood donation system which allows as many people as possible to donate
Of course, taking steps to reduce sexual infection rates for men who have sex with men is also vital and would help to support the safety of the blood supply.
We are pleased that the Government and NHS Blood and Transplant Service are committed to exploring how to introduce a system based on individualised risk assessment of blood donors.
Stonewall will now work alongside other organisations, the Government and NHS Blood and Transport Service to ensure a further review is carried out as soon as possible, so that we can create a fairer system for gay and bi men who want to donate blood.