Gay and Bisexual Men Now Eligible to Donate Blood in the U.K.

The National Health Service (NHS) has announced that gay and bisexual men who have been in monogamous relationships for at least three months can donate blood, plasma, and platelets in England, Scotland, and Wales.

This reversal of policies limiting donor eligibility based on perceived risks of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections comes as the U.K. and other countries report blood supply shortages because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a review by the NHS’ For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group, eligibility for donating blood in the U.K. will now be evaluated based on an individual’s health, travel, and sexual behaviors regardless of sexual orientation or gender. The impact of these changes will be monitored for the next year to determine whether further changes are required, according to the NHS.

“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,” Ella Poppitt, chief nurse for blood donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said in a statement. “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.”

Currently, the FDA prohibits men who have had sex with another man in the past three months from dona-ting blood in the U.S. Previously, the waiting period was 12 months, but the federal government updated blood donor eligibility guidelines in April 2020 in response to pandemic-driven blood shortages.

Source: NPR, June 16, 2021.