Gay men given green light to donate blood


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The Independent Online

Gay rights campaigners hailed the removal of the lifetime ban on homosexual blood donors yesterday but attacked the "disproportionate" 12-month restriction on those who are sexually active.

Stonewall, the pressure group for gays and lesbians, said the new rule discriminated against gay men who engaged in low-risk sexual activity. It called for the same rules to apply to all blood donors. Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, said the restriction was "excessive and unjustified" although a "big improvement" on the existing rule.

The Department of Health said the lifetime ban on men who have ever had sex with men, which has been in place since the 1980s, would be lifted on 7 November. It followed a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs which said the ban should be reduced to a year for men who had had oral or anal sex with a man in the past 12 months.

The committee said the change would not increase the risk of transmission of HIV, which can now be identfied sooner after infection with more sensitive tests, but there was a higher incidence of hepatitis B in gay men and this could remain undetectable for several months.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said a gay man in a monogamous relationship who only had oral sex would still be unable to give blood under the new rules – while a heterosexual man with multiple partners who did not use condoms would not be questioned about his behaviour. And even if he were, he would not be excluded from donating.