UK lifts lifetime blood ban
The UK Department of Health has officially lifted its lifetime ban on blood donation from men who have sex with men (MSM).
The ban was introduced as a response to the spread of HIV in the 1980s.
But following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (Sabto), MSM can give blood as long as they have not had sex with another man for 12 months.
Dr Lorna Williamson, the National Health Service Blood and Transplant's medical and research director, said: "Our priority as a blood service is to provide a safe and sufficient supply of blood for patients. This change gives us an opportunity to broaden our donor acceptance on the basis of the latest scientific evidence."
Not everyone agrees. Human rights activist Peter Tatchell said the 12 month waiting period is too long.
In a Huffington Post article, Tatchell wrote: "Although the new policy is a big improvement, the revised rules are still excessive, unjustified and discriminatory.
"The 12 month ban is too sweeping and draconian. It applies to men who always use a condom and who test HIV-negative."
He said most gay men do not have and never will have HIV and there are no corresponding restrictions on heterosexual men and women who engage in "risky behaviours".
"The blood service does not, for example, exclude men who regularly travel to cities such as New York, which has a high rate of heterosexually-transmitted HIV infection, and who have vaginal or oral sex with multiple women partners without a condom. The rules smack of double standards," he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Belfast Telegraph reports that Northern Irish gay rights activists are trying to convince their health minister to follow suit and lift restrictions.
The minister, Edwin Poots has agreed to meet with representatives from the Rainbow Project.
Matthew McDermott, equality officer at the Rainbow Project, said: “We will continue to urge the Minister to follow best advice and bring Northern Ireland |into line with the rest of the UK.”