HIV charities surprised at gay blood ban reports

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HIV prevention charities say they are surprised at reports that the government is announce the end of the gay blood donation before a review has been completed.

The policy, which currently bars any man who has had gay sex from donating blood, is the subject of a review due to end this summer.

Yesterday, reports claimed that health minister Anne Milton would soon announce that the policy would be lifted to allow men who have not had gay sex for ten years to donate blood.

The Sunday Times reported: “Ministers have been advised on the move by SaBTO, the advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissues, and organs. It found that if the ban were replaced by a new rule preventing gay men from giving blood for five years after having sex with another man, the risk of HIV reaching the blood supply would go up by less than five per cent.

“It is estimated that that figure would halve if the “deferral” period were increased to ten years. Ministers are therefore proposing that gay men should defer becoming donors until ten years after having gay sex.”

Last month, Ms Milton said an announcement on the policy would be made “in the near future”.

But HIV charities said they did not expect she would make any announcement until the review is finished.

Lisa Power, policy director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It is my understanding that no recommendations have been made to the [health] minister.”

She added that THT would not comment until the review is complete and that the charity’s position would be “absolutely based on that evidence”.

The National AIDS Trust and Stonewall also said they were not aware of any imminent announcement on the policy.

A statement from SaBTO, which is carrying out the review, said: “SaBTO is currently reviewing the evidence base for donor exclusion and deferral in the UK, including criteria which relate to sexual behaviour.

“Once the review is complete, SaBTO will make recommendations to the government as to whether any changes to the current policy are warranted. A recommendation is expected in summer 2011.”

The Department of Health has not yet commented.