The British government on Monday (14 June) eased blood donation rules for gay, bisexual and queer men – yet activists warn harmful restrictions remain.
Blood donation rules in England, Scotland and Wales have long screened out donors if they are a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man.
This is because male donors were asked to disclose whether they have had sex with another man during checks.
But coming into effect on World Blood Donor Day and following recommendations from a health committee, British blood services will now assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying a blanket restriction.
So, rather than just men, all people regardless of gender and sexuality will be asked the same questions on recent sexual activity, if any.
This means anyone who has had the same sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible, allowing more LGBT+ folk than ever before to donate blood, platelets and plasma.
It’s a long-sought for shift in policy quickly hailed as “historic” by top LGBT+ advocates, but sexual health groups warned that the blood donation process is still riddled by “barriers”.
“Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do,” said the blood service’s chief nurse for blood donation Ella Poppitt.
“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.”