11 December 2023

There has been no safety risk from enabling gay and bisexual men to donate blood after June 2021, according to a new analysis.

The measure was hailed as ending decades of discrimination against gay men, preventing them from being donors.

The findings appear in the ‘Safe Supplies 2022: monitoring safety in donors and recipients’ report, produced by NHS Blood and Transplant together with the UK Health Security Agency.

They explain that there has been good compliance with new guidelines, and the risk of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV infection being released into the blood supply remained at below one in a million.

A separate report published earlier this year, the Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) report, stated that there were zero confirmed cases of transfusion transmitted hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV during 2022.

Changes to the blood donation rules were brought in on the recommendation of the For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group.

Previously, men could not donate within three months of sexual contact with another man. Now, all donors are asked whether they have had sex with a new partner or more than one within the last three months, and questions about past bacterial STIs and drug use during sex.

The change has meant many gay, bi-men and men who have sex with men in a long-term relationship are now be able to donate blood at any time, as well as their partners.

This gender-neutral, more individualised approach was a landmark change, and led the way for other blood donation services around the world to move towards a more inclusive policy.

Chair of FAIR Steering Group, Dr Su Brailsford, said: “These data are really encouraging, and I am pleased to be able to continue to give reassurance of safety for recipients across the UK.

“As always, we are grateful to the donors who help to save and improve recipient lives every year.”

Dr Katy Davison of NHS Blood and Transplant added: “We are able to show there are still very few infections in donors and transmissions to recipients are rare but we continue to keep a close eye on the impact of FAIR and gather evidence for future reviews of the policy.”

Source: NHS Blood and Transplant

Link: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news/annual-safety-report-shows-no-impact-on-safety/

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