Time limit reduction on blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men comes into effect in Scotland
AS THE BAN ON blood donation for gay and bisexual men reduces from 12 months to three months since the last time they had sex with another man, LGBTI charity Equality Network has said too many men are still unfairly excluded by the ban.
The new rules for Scotland and Wales came into effect on Monday, while the same will come into effect in England on Tuesday. This follows a decision by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments to instruct their blood services to change the time limit in line with recommendations by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
The 12 month ban was put in place in 2011 when the lifetime ban on men who had sex with men was lifted. Now reduced to three months, the rules still require a blanket ban on all men who have had anal or oral sex with other men, with or without protection, within the stated time period.
“We remain concerned that for too many low risk gay and bisexual men these new rules are, in effect, a continued ban.” Scott Cuthbertson, Equality Network
Scott Cuthbertson, development manager for Equality Network said: “We welcome that more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate blood from today.
“We hope many gay and bisexual men who are now able to donate, do so with their peers. These new rules are a welcome and significant step forward, we remain concerned, however, that for too many low risk gay and bisexual men these new rules are, in effect, a continued ban.”
Cuthbertson noted that the blood service has committed to considering options for a “more personalised risk assessment”, a policy which Equality Network advocates.
A briefing by Equality Network argues that asking donors more detailed questions about their sexual activity would also allow the blood service to gather more accurate information on risk, making the blood supply safer.
“While this will reduce the number of gay and bisexual men facing discrimination in blood donation, only a system of individual risk assessment will end it.” Equality Network briefing
The briefing says that a policy of a blanket ban based on gender or sexual orientation amounts to discrimination, and states of the reduction to three months: “While this will reduce the number of gay and bisexual men facing discrimination in blood donation, only a system of individual risk assessment will end it.”
The rules on blood donation also affect people who have sex with partners who are classed as high risk – meaning that women who have sex with men who have had sex with a man within the time limit will also be barred from donating blood.
As the new limit comes into effect, Cuthbertson said: “We look forward to continuing to work with both the blood service and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) to eliminate all unwarranted discrimination from the UKs blood donation rules.”
Northern Ireland only lifted the lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men in September last year, reducing the limit to one year.
The Scottish Government had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Picture courtesy of Adam Piotrowski
Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter