Reports suggest the United Kingdom’s current policy banning gay men from donating blood is to be amended so that gay men who have not had same-gender sex for a decade can now legally donate.
Ministers are said to be contemplating changing the policy based on legal advice that a blanket ban is likely unlawful under Britain’s equality laws.
But why specifically a ten year period?
From Pink News:
While donated blood is screened for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, a small number of infected donations are missed due to the time between infection with HIV and it being detected in blood tests.
The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) found that a ban on gay men from giving blood if they had not had sex with another man for five years would increase the risk of blood supplies being contaminated by five per cent. Ministers were told that this risk would halve for men who had not had gay sex for ten years.
It is estimated that seven per cent of sexually active gay men donate blood despite the current ban.
A government source told the newspaper: “A complete ban is unfair and discriminatory but we need to protect public health, so the ten-year rule is what is being considered.”
While many will welcome this progress, campaigners point out that there are many same-sex couples in committed monogamous relationships as well as individuals who practice safe-sex that the ban will still prevent them from legally donating blood. Those that say the ban is based on homophobia rather than actual facts are therefore unlikely to change their opinion even with news of the amended policy.
However, a review of the policy is ongoing and HIV groups said Monday that they were surprised to hear that the government might act without the review’s conclusions which are due in June.
A statement from SaBTO, which is carrying out the review, reads (via Pink News): “SaBTO is currently reviewing the evidence base for donor exclusion and deferral in the UK, including criteria which relate to sexual behaviour.
“Once the review is complete, SaBTO will make recommendations to the government as to whether any changes to the current policy are warranted. A recommendation is expected in summer 2011.”
At the time of writing the Department of Health has not issued a comment.
It is estimated that, as of the end of 2009, 86,500 people in the UK have HIV, a quarter of whom are believed to be unaware of the infection. There were 6,630 new diagnoses of HIV reported in the UK in 2009.