A ban that once restricted all gay men from donating blood in the United Kingdom has been partially lifted by the Department of Health after a recent study conducted by the advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs concluded that it had no reason to exclusively ban gay men from donating.
Gay men are now eligible to donate blood, but those who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, are not. The change will be implemented in Wales, England and Scotland this week, but Northern Ireland has not yet decided if it will go forward with removing the restriction.
"Our priority as a blood service is to provide a safe and sufficient supply of blood for patients," said research director of NHS Blood and Transplant Dr. Lorna Williamson in a statement.
"This change gives us an opportunity to broaden our donor acceptance on the basis of the latest scientific evidence. The SaBTO review concluded that the safety of the blood supply would not be affected by the change and we would like to reassure patients receiving transfusions that the blood supply is as safe as it reasonably can be and amongst the safest in the world. There has been no documented transmission of a blood-borne virus in the UK since 2005, with no HIV transmission since 2002."
The ban was established in the UK in the 1980s in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
However, although many gay rights activists and organizations feel the lift on the ban is a step in the right direction, they also think the restriction of not allowing men who have engaged in homosexual sex in the past year to donate still ostracisizes the gay community, as heterosexuals "engaged in higher risk sexual activity are not subject to the same restrictions," according to Pinknews.co.uk.
"Whilst we are pleased to welcome this rule change for gay men, we will continue to encourage SaBTO to regularly review their restrictions on blood donation related to sexual behaviour (including other groups in addition to gay men), said National AIDS Trust, Terrence Higgins Trust and GMFA in a joint statement. Particularly as the epidemics around blood-borne viruses evolve and scientific evidence changes and advances."