A lifetime ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men in the United Kingdom is currently under review and could be lifted in 2010.
The government's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues, and Organs (SaBTO) is holding a public consultation meeting in London Tuesday as part of that process.
Men who have had sex with other men are banned for life from donating blood, under measures designed to reduce the risk of passing on infections such as HIV. But gay rights campaigners have condemned the policy as irrational.
The National Blood Service for England and North Wales says it has to exclude groups known to present a particularly high risk of blood-borne viruses, like men who have sex with men, to reduce the possiblity of infected blood entering the blood supply, reports the BBC. According to the National Health Service, more than 10% of gay male Londoners have HIV, while one in 25 gay men nationwide have the virus.
Although all blood donations are screened for HIV before they are used, blood service officials have argued that very recent infections may not be detected.
“This review of the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is long overdue,” said gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell, according to the London Times website. “The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the committee would publish its findings in 2010.