UK Government rules out easing restrictions on gay men giving blood

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Department of Health has rejected calls by the Green Party to end the ban against gay and bisexual men donating blood within 12 months of having sex.

At present, men who have sex with men (MSM), can only donate if they have not had sex for 12 months or more.

In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a one-year deferral.

A lifetime ban remains in place in Northern Ireland.

The one-year deferral was chosen by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) 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.

Last Saturday, Green Party councillors in Brighton and Hove announced they would table a council motion on 17 July, urging the government to scrap the existing 12-month deferral.

Green Councillor Alexandra Phillips, proposer of the motion, said: “The current rules are still discriminatory and are not backed by logical analysis of risk.

“Good science would support a six-month window before donating blood after a possible risk, for all donors, on the basis that tests for HIV and Hepatitis C can detect infection within that time.

“The health service desperately needs safe blood donations, but this discrimination bars perfectly healthy men from helping to save lives.”

Councillor Mike Jones, who is an NHS sexual health adviser, added: “It’s absolutely crucial that blood supplies are safe and there should be proper measures in place to deal with risky individuals – but these rules mean in practice the vast majority of healthy gay and bisexual men are prevented from donating blood.”

The Greens would like to see individual evaluations based on sexual behaviour rather than group-wide filtering for gay and bisexual men.

But on Tuesday, the Department of Health (DH) said it had “no plans” to review the current 12-month deferral.

A DH spokesperson told “The 12-month deferral reflects the heightened risk men who have sex with men have from blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B.

“It allows for the period of time these viruses can go undetected by screening tests and lessens the risk of infection in people who need blood donations.”