UK drops abstinence period on gay men donating blood | News | DW | 14.12.2020

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UK drops abstinence period on gay men donating blood

Gay and bisexual men had long faced restrictions when donating blood due to HIV fears. The new rules will allow men in long-term relationships to donate without a celibacy period.

A nurse holds a blood tube during a blood donation campaign

Men in long term relationships with other men will no longer require a period of celibacy to donate

The United Kingdom on Monday lifted its ban on gay and bisexual men in long term relationships donating blood. The previous policy banned men who have had sex with men in the past three months from donating blood, due to fears of HIV transmission. 

The change in policy will be effective in 2021, according to British media outlets. Assessment of donors will be made on an individual basis, rather than a blanket restriction. According to reports, Britain's NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said men in a long term relationship will be able to donate blood, if there is no known exposure to a sexually transmitted infection and they are not using anti-HIV drugs PreP or PEP.

A two-year review conducted by FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) investigated whether sexual behaviors could be an effective measure of assessing individual risk of sexually transmitted infection, which could be passed on through blood transfusions. The UK government has taken into consideration the findings of this study, reported The Telegraph

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told media that the step "recognizes individuals for the actions they take, rather than their sexual preference."

Restrictions across the globe

Countries around the world had imposed a blanket ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Since then, many nations have reviewed their policies. 

The US lifted a ban on men who have sex with men donating blood in 2015, but up until earlier this year required an abstinence period of 12 months. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that was reduced to three months. 

Northern Ireland has also cut the abstinence period to three months as well. Australia also plans to cut down the abstinence period. France ended its ban on gay men donating blood in 2015.

Germany too requires a period of abstinence for 12 months from LGBT+ men. However, with blood reserves running low, the German parliament has been debating the lifting of restrictions

Watch video 02:53

Debate over 'discriminatory' blood donation rules

Earlier this year, Brazil ruled that its 12-month deferral period was unconstitutional. 

At least 17 countries, such as Argentina, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Spain and Hungary do not impose any restrictions on such blood donations. However, countries such as Croatia, Iceland, Malaysia, Slovenia, Singapore impose a blanket ban. 

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