New Zealand: Gay blood ban to be lowered from 5 years to 12 months

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New Zealand’s Blood Service has announced it is partially relaxing its ban on gay men giving blood.

Currently in the country, men who have anal or oral sex with another man are deferred from giving blood for a period of five years.

However, the Blood Service today announced it has accepted the recommendations of a report, which suggests the deferral period be decreased to 12 months.

Though the changes do relax the rules slightly, sexually active gay men are still effectively barred from giving blood, and would have to abstain from sex for over a year to do so.

The report also does not removing the ban entirely, as it found men who have sex with men accounted 75% of all newly diagnosed HIV infections.

Dr Peter Flanagan, the manager of the country’s blood service, said he must make sure the blood supply is as safe as possible, and a blood ban would still be needed until HIV detection improves.

He told RadioNZ: “We are aware of the sensitivity, and are doing our best to manage it.

“In the very early stages the virus may be present in the donation and it may not be detected by our test.

“Because of that our most effective approach to assure ongoing safety is to combine that testing with specific deferrals of individuals who are at higher risk of acquiring the infection.”

In England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men are currently banned from giving blood for 12 months, but in Northern Ireland the ban is for life.

Tory Health minister Jeremy Hunt has refused to appeal Northern Ireland’s lifetime blood ban despite calls for him to do so, claiming it should be a devolved issue.

In Uruguay, Mexico and Portugal gay and bisexual men are able to donate blood without issue, but blanket bans are still in place in France and the US.