LGBTI charity welcomes ‘historic day’ for gay and bisexual men donating blood

Scottish LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network have today welcomed changes in blood donation rules which will remove the deferment period for some gay and bisexual men from donating blood and replace it with an individual risk assessment regardless of sexual orientation. This important new policy will take effect on World Blood Donor Day will allow thousands of gay and bisexual men, previously excluded, to donate for the first time.

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager, said, “I’ve been campaigning on the issue of blood donation for gay and bisexual men for over 15 years, and for me this was never about a right to give, but the fact that there were many gay and bisexual men that could do so safely. I’m pleased the evidence, assessed by experts, has concluded that to be true, and that many thousands of gay and bisexual men will be able to donate their blood and help save lives.

Today, during Pride Month, I’m proud to donate my blood for the first time alongside many other gay and bisexual men across the UK as the rules which we long felt to be unnecessarily exclusionary have been replaced with a person-by-person risk assessment.”

The changes, which come into effect across England and Wales as well as Scotland today and NI later in the year, mean that UK blood services will now assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying across-the-board restrictions. From today, SNBTS will ask all donors the same questions about their recent sexual activity to ensure blood safety. This will allow previously excluded potential donors (including low-risk sexually active gay men) to give blood.

Craig Spalding, SNBTS Director, said, “These changes follow an evidence-based review by the UK-wide FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group. FAIR was set up at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care. The steering group included representatives from the four UK blood services, LGBT+ groups, medical and scientific experts, and patient and donor representatives. FAIR concluded that the new donor selection system will maintain the UK’s status as having one of the safest blood supplies in the world. The FAIR recommendations were designed by epidemiology, sexual health and Infectious disease experts. The recommendations were accepted in full by the Scottish and UK governments in December 2020. I am proud to implement these changes in SNBTS, and I would like to extend my thanks to all current and future donors in Scotland.”

The Equality Network have been involved in campaigning for fair blood donation rules since 2005 and over that time have worked constructively with the SNBTS, most recently as part of the FAIR steering group. The lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) was lifted in 2011, the 12 month deferment was replaced with a 3 month deferment in 2017.

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