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Men who have sex with men

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Can gay men give blood?

Gay and bisexual men are not automatically prevented from giving blood.

However, all men must wait 3 months after having oral or anal sex with another man before donating.

This rule applies to every man, regardless of their sexual orientation, whether they’re in a stable relationship or whether they use protection such as condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group is currently researching a more individualised donor selection policy

Why is there a 3-month wait after sex?

The 3-month wait is to reduce the risk of any very recently acquired infections not being detected on screening and further tests. This applies to all donors whose partners may be at a higher risk of blood borne infections. 

The reason a delay period exists is due to a combination of two things:

Increased risk of infection

At a population level, men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of acquiring certain infections through sex.

The gap between getting an infection and being able to detect it

We test every blood donation but there is a small possibility that very recent infections don’t get picked up but may still be passed on through blood.

This is because there is a period of time (called a window period) between getting an infection and it showing up reliably on tests.

If someone gives blood during the window period, their blood could contain an infection that could be passed on to the people who receive their blood.

Blood donation rules

Safety is at the forefront of everything we do, and this is the reason we have one of the safest blood supplies in the world.

The strict guidelines and testing we follow are to protect both donors and patients. We are also regularly inspected by independent regulators.

The current donor selection rules are set by the Department of Health and are based on medical advice from the independent Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

They cover a wide-range of topics, known as risk factors, that might stop you from giving blood, either for a short time, a temporary deferral or permanently.

These include:

  • lifestyle and sexual activity
  • travel
  • illness and medical conditions
  • getting a tattoo or piercing
  • endoscopy

The rules are there to protect the seriously ill people who need blood transfusions.

Questions we ask before you donate

To assess whether it’s safe to give blood, we ask everyone the same questions about these risk factors before they donate.

This health questionnaire is the first step in an important line of checks and tests we take to limit the chances of infections reaching vulnerable patients.

We trust people to answer these questions about their medical history and lifestyle as fully and honestly as possible.

Research into more personalised questions

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

So, we’re currently part of the FAIR steering group to explore whether a more individualised donor selection policy could be used which would take your personal circumstances into account in more detail.

We’re working with a range of people and LGBT+ groups including:

  • National AIDS Trust
  • Stonewall
  • Freedom to Donate
  • Terrence Higgins Trust
  • epidemiology and psychology experts

This is a big piece of research and we hope to report our findings towards the end of 2020.

Previous changes to blood donation rules

Blood donation rules have evolved over the years as the understanding and evidence about risks improves.

  • pre-2011 – men who have sex with men were not able to give blood
  • 2011 – a 12-month wait was introduced
  • November 2017 – a 3-month wait for men who have sex with men was introduced following changes to SaBTO guidance

We have some of the world’s most progressive rules about who can and can’t give blood. Internationally, some countries don’t allow men who have sex with men to give blood or have a 12-month delay.