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Statement: Our position on blood donation by men who have sex with men

We want as many people as possible to be able to donate blood safely.

5 July 2019

NHS Blood and Transplant has blood donation time-based deferrals for several reasons such as tattoos, travel and medical treatments, and also a three month deferral for men who have had sex with men.

What is NHS Blood and Transplant’s position on men who have sex with men and blood donation?

The deferrals are based on expert clinical and scientific advice to protect donors and the patients who are given the blood. The safety of the seriously ill people who receive blood is our number one priority.

There are guidelines for good reasons. Anyone can acquire a blood-borne infection or a sexually transmitted disease, but some people have an increased risk of exposure. At a population level, men who have sex with men have a higher risk.

Different forms of sexual intercourse have different transmission risks. Using protection like a condom or pre-exposure prophylaxis can reduce this risk, but may not eliminate it.

We have to consider not only the donor but also the potential risks of their partner.

NHSBT appreciates that any deferral is disappointing when you want to save lives by giving blood. We want as many people as possible to be able to donate safely.

We’re currently working with a range of stakeholders including LGBT+ groups to explore and collect evidence to inform our work on a more individualised risk assessment approach to donor selection policy and we hope to report our findings towards the end of 2020.