Sexually active queer men will now be able to donate blood, platelets, and plasma in the U.K. beginning Monday after new eligibility criteria go into force on World Blood Donor Day.
While screening possible donors, clinics will discuss a person’s sexual behavior instead of an all-fitting regulation. Every donor who has had the same sexual partner for the previous three months will now be eligible to donate. This would allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood, according to the U.K.’s National Health Service.
Individuals are ineligible to donate blood if they’ve had a new sexual partner in the last three months and have had anal sex or possible recent exposure to an STI, or if there has been recent use of PrEP or PEP.
“This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual,” said Ella Poppitt, chief nurse for blood donation at U.K.’s National Health Services’ Blood and Transplant, in a press release. “We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals.”
“All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviors which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future,” she said.
The change comes after recommendations from the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualized Risk) Report — a steering group commissioned by the NHS, which includes representatives from LGBTQ+ rights and sexual health groups
The U.K. rights group Stonewall, which was part of FAIR, approved of the change, said Robbie de Santos, Stonewall’s director of communications and external affairs. “We welcome today’s historic change, which will help ensure more gay and bi men can donate blood and represents an important step towards a donation selection policy entirely based on an individualized assessment of risk,” he said.
“We want to see a blood donation system that allows the greatest number of people to donate safely and we will continue to work with Government to build on this progress and ensure that more people, including LGBT+ people, can donate blood safely in the future.”
Some groups voiced concern over the inclusion of a criterium of not donating for three months if the potential donor had had a partner who may have had sex “in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS is very common. This includes most countries in Africa.”
In a statement, a few groups said the question was vague and misleading. Further, the groups said, “It also disproportionately impacts on Black people in the U.K., particularly those of Black African background.”