Fairer blood donation rules spell huge shift for LGBT+ equality

Jason Warriner from the RCN Public Health Nursing Forum reflects on recent changes that will make blood donation policy in England more inclusive and increase the overall number of people who can donate

Jason Warriner

Jason Warriner

February marks LGBT+ history month and while it's important to remember how things used to be, we must also recognise the things that have changed for the better.

The history of the LGBT+ community is comprised of many stories of activism; from fighting for equal rights to responding to HIV. All of these issues and many others have brought this community together, a community that campaigns for change and fights against discrimination.

There is still a long way to go before we reach LGBT+ equality, and there is still a need to challenge inequalities, but LGBT+ history has shown us that progress can be made.

In December 2020, the government announced changes to blood donation rules in England. This new policy will see the introduction of an individual risk assessment, rather than a population-based one, for all potential donors, increasing the number of people who can donate blood.

This change means a fairer blood donation system, which also preserves the safety of our national blood supply

Any changes to blood donation rules are evidence-based and always focus on the safety of the blood supply in the UK. NHS Blood and Transplant led the For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group. Members of the group included Public Health England, University of Nottingham and representatives from LGBT and HIV charities. FAIR made recommendations to the advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissue and organ donation, who in turn made recommendations to the government.

As a result, the eligibility criteria for blood donations has moved away from blanket rules based on sexuality and gender; sexual behaviour will be the factor that is risk assessed for recent blood-borne infections that will not be detected in post-donation screening. All blood in the UK is screened for blood-borne viruses.

This change means a fairer blood donation system, which also preserves the safety of our national blood supply. For men who are in these groups and in a long-term relationship, they will now be able to donate blood in England.

These changes will be introduced in the summer of 2021 and are a step forward in addressing the inequalities in blood donation services and making blood donation more inclusive.

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