London conference to discuss UK policy on gay men giving blood

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The UK’s policy on gay and bisexual men donating blood will be up for discussion next month at a conference in London.

Campaigners and a range of health experts will be meeting for the day-long event at King’s College London on 12 June.

Confirmed speakers include Su Brailsford, from NHS Blood and Transplant, Sally McManus, of the UK’s National Centre for Research, Josianne Pillonel, from France’s Public Health Surveillance Institute, and the LGBT activist and PinkNews contributor, Chris Ward.

In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood.

A lifetime ban remains in place in Northern Ireland.

The one-year deferral was chosen in part because of Hepatitis B, which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men. While there is a four-week window between transmission and detection of HIV, Hepatitis B can take up to a year to be cleared by the body.

The South African Government in May replaced a six-month automatic deferral for gay and bisexual men with a new policy.

Under the new rules, all people – regardless of gender or sexual orientation – will be banned from giving blood for six months after having sex with a new partner, and anyone with multiple sexual partners will remain banned from doing so.

Earlier this month, New Zealand decided to relax the length of its blood ban, from five years to 12 months.

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.