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UK Lifts Lifetime Ban on Blood Donations from MSM

October 1, 2011

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Department of Health (DH) announced that the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men (MSM) will be lifted in November. Men in the UK whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago–assuming they meet the other eligibility criteria–will be able to donate. 

The lifting of the ban, agreed on by health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales, was based on an evidence-based review and recommendations by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs. According to the DH press release, the committee conducted a “rigorous review of the latest available evidence” relevant to infection risk, attitudes to compliance with the donor selection criteria and improvements in testing donated blood.

The new guidelines will be implemented in England and North Wales on November 7, 2011, by National Health Service Blood and Transplant, which manages the national voluntary donation system for blood, tissues, organs and stem cells. The change will be enacted on the same date in Wales by Welsh Blood Services and in Scotland by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. 

“Blood donations are a lifeline, and many of us would not have loved ones with us today if it was not for the selfless act of others,” said Anne Milton, Public Health Minster in the UK DH. “Our blood service is carefully managed to maintain a safe and sufficient supply of blood for transfusions. Appropriate checks based on robust science must be in place to maintain this safety record and the committee’s recommendation reflects this.  It is important that people comply with all donor selection criteria, which are in place to protect the health of both donors and transfusion recipients.”

For U.S. deliberations regarding donor deferral please see this earlier eNotes story: Federal Blood Safety Committee Reviews Donor Deferral Rules

Source: U.K. Department of Health press release dated September 8, 2011