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Gay blood donations ban could be lifted

8th September 2011

Blood donation restrictions covering men who have had a homosexual encounter, look set to be lifted in the UK.

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The lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men was put in place in the 1980s to prevent the risk of HIV contamination.

However, medical evidence now suggests that a ban of this nature can no longer be justified and comes as several other countries have relaxed the regulations, basing them instead on the time period since the last homosexual encounter.

All blood donations are screened by the National Blood Service for HIV and other infections but the concern remained because there is a period after infection during which it is impossible to detect the virus.

The lifetime ban has been questioned on equality and medical grounds and in the light of improved blood screening tests which have reduced the risk of contamination.

During its January meeting the UK government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs argued that the evidence no longer supported the continuation of the ban.

Earlier this year, the Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting the ban and the Terrence Higgins Trust says the arguments must be about public health, not discrimination.

It said: “We believe any decision on the safety of the blood supply must be based on evidence and not on political lobbying or framing of it as purely an equalities issue.”

South Africa has introduced a six-month gap between sex and donation, while in Australia, Sweden and Japan it is a year.

 

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