Gay and bisexual men allowed to donate blood without abstaining from sex under historic UK rule change

We’re welcoming news today that gay and bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Scotland will no longer be automatically barred from giving blood if they have had sex with another man in the past three months. The move means men in a long-term relationship with another man will be able to donate blood from next summer.

The first ban on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men donating blood was introduced during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, but with advances in understanding HIV and blood testing as well as decades-long campaigning, the restrictions have been challenged over time leading to today’s historic change.

Waverley Care’s Chief Executive Grant Sugden commented: “We have long advocated for inclusive and just blood donation rules and we welcome the announcement that blood donations will in future be based on an individualised assessment, rather than a blanket approach that ruled out all gay and bisexual men simply for who they are.”

According to NHS Blood service, the change in policy means risk assessments for donors will be carried out on an individual basis, rather than a population-based one as before. Anyone who has the same sexual partner for more than three months will be able to donate if there is no known exposure to a sexually transmitted infection and they are not using anti-HIV drugs PrEP or PEP.

Sx Manager Alastair Rose commented: “This has been a long-standing inequality for gay, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men. We welcome the change to ensure that equality exists across the service. There are many thousands of gay men who are good candidates to donate blood and this ruling will allow gay and bisexual men to help keep our vital blood donation levels stocked. Society often discriminates against the sex men have with other men and news like this helps break down stigma in relation to this"

However as noted by Pink News, some restrictions remain: “All donors who have had more than one sexual partner or a new partner in the last three months can donate blood as long as they have not had anal sex. Moreover, those taking PrEP, the HIV-preventative antiviral drug, and PEP or engaging in chemsex will still not be allowed to donate.”

While there continues to be more work to do making blood donation services inclusive, Sx Health Improvement Coordinator Christopher Ward noted: “We are delighted to see progress being made and the removal of criteria that perpetuated the stigma that gay and bisexual men have faced for decades.”