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25 July 2017

 

Blood donation rules in England are to be relaxed to allow a greater number of high risk donors, it has been announced.

The new rules will make it easier for gay men to donate - but will also allow donations from people with a history of prostitution and drug injection.

The new rules state that donors should not give blood within three months of undertaking a high risk activity.

NHS Blood and Transplant says it wants to undertake thorough staff training before introducing the new rules - which will rely on donor honesty about their lives.

It said rule changes take into account the latest scientific evidence and will not affect the safety of the blood supply.

Currently people who have worked as prostitutes or who inject drugs are banned from giving blood. They will now be able to donate three months after they last undertook these activities.

The time limit for donation has been reduced from 12 months to three months for men who have gay sex, those who have sex with a high risk partner and those who have had a sexual partner who has been sexually active in areas with high HIV incidence.

NHS Blood and Transplant medical director Dr Gail Miflin welcomed the changes, announced by the Department of Health.

She said: 'They take into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence and will not affect the safety of the blood supply. This included more information now available about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, more evidence on how well donors comply with our guidelines and also more evidence that supports the reliability of the blood screening tests we use.

'We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world. Anyone may require a blood transfusion in the future and so it’s in all our interests to ensure that we work hard to keep blood safe for patients.

'This starts with selection of donors before they give blood. Everyone must answer questions on their health and lifestyle before they donate and answering these questions correctly is crucial, in order to keep blood safe.'

Alex Phillips, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'We’re pleased that the lifetime ban on former and current sex workers has been lifted, and the deferral period is now in line with other deferrals based on sexual behaviour.

'We know from our research that the majority of sex workers take great care of their sexual health, with 98% of sex workers we asked rating their sexual health as very important, 76% having a sexual health check up every three months, and 98% knowing their HIV status.

'Medical evidence is, of course, constantly and quickly being updated, so it’s important that the deferral periods are regularly reviewed in line with the latest evidence. We therefore hope that today’s changes will pave the way for more progress as further evidence becomes available.'

But Baroness Lorely Burt, of the Liberal Democrats, said: 'Gay and bisexual men in long-term monogamous relationships will still not be able to donate blood under these changes. That means thousands of people will still be needlessly prevented from donating blood.'

 

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