Blood donor ban lifted for men who have sex with men

Behind the Headlines

Friday September 9 2011

The current restrictions will end on November 7 2011

The long-standing ban preventing men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood is to be lifted, the Department of Health has announced.

Restrictions put in place in the 1980s stated that men should be permanently excluded from blood donation if they had ever had oral or anal sex with another man, even if a condom was used. However, as of November 7 2011 they will be eligible to give blood as long as they have not had anal or oral sex with a man in the past 12 months and meet the other general donor selection criteria. The changes will apply to England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland.

The changes were made based on the results of an extensive evidence review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO). This considered:

  • the risk of infection being transmitted in blood
  • attitudes to compliance with the donor selection criteria
  • improvements in testing of donated blood

The SaBTO committee says the evidence now available "no longer support[s] the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men". The committee recommended that the criteria be brought into line with those for other groups at raised risk of infection associated with sexual behaviours, who the 12-month waiting period also applies to. 

Discussing the changes, Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said “We welcome this decision, which is based on strong new evidence that all the experts are agreed on. These regulations will ensure the safety of the blood supply for all of us while also being fair and equal in their application. We can now detect blood-borne viruses earlier and have more understanding of them, and the change reflects that".

Further information on the changes is available from NHS Blood and Transplant and the Department of Health.

Analysis by Bazian

Edited by NHS Choices

Links to the headlines

Gay men blood donor ban lifted. BBC News, September 9 2011

Gay men will be able to donate blood. Daily Mirror, September 9 2011

Lifetime ban on gay men donating blood is lifted. The Independent, September 9 2011

Lifetime blood donor ban for gay men lifted - as long as they haven't had sex for a year. Daily Mail, September 9 2011

Gay men can donate blood as health experts lift controversial ban. The Guardian, September 9 2011

Gay men can give blood if they snub sex. Daily Express, September 9 2011

Gay blood donations ban likely to be lifted. BBC News, September 9 2011

Further reading

Donor selection criteria review. Department of Health 2011, September 8 2011

Changes to blood donor selection criteria. NHS Blood and Transport 2011, September 8 2011

Exclusion of Men who have Sex with Men from Blood Donation. Frequently Asked Questions. NHS Blood and Transport 2011, September 8 2011

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