Can gay people donate blood
- Can I show up and donate blood if I have been deferred for MSM?
- Student and faculty activism on campuses
- Questions and Answers
- Policy and Process Information
- Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy
- I am a man who has not had sex with another man in more than 12 months, can I donate blood?
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- What can I do to help if I am not eligible to donate blood?
- If I have been deferred for MSM, when will I be able to donate blood?
Many LGBT organizations view the restrictions on donation as based on homophobia and not based on valid medical concern since donations are rigorously tested to rule out donors that are infected with known viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. They state the deferrals are based on stereotypes. Proponents of the lifetime restriction defend it because of the asserted risk of false negative test results and because the MSM population in developed countries tends to have a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection. The UK government advisory committee, SABTO, stated in 2013 that "the risk of transfusion of HIV infected blood would increase if MSM were allowed to donate blood". In July 2017 however, the UK government reduced the one year deferral window to three months, to take effect in the following months, resulting from SABTO's updated conclusions that "new testing systems were accurate and donors were good at complying with the rules". Furthermore, NHS Blood and Transplant are now investigating how possible it is for MSM, depending on degree of risk, to donate without even the three month deferral.
In the United States in 2005, MSM, African Americans, and persons engaging in high-risk heterosexual behavior accounted for respectively 49%, 49%, and 32% of new HIV diagnoses. In 2009 in the United States, African Americans accounted for 47.9% of new HIV diagnoses reported that year, but represented approximately only 12% of the population.
Student and faculty activism on campuses
The Red Cross understands that there is a difference between biological sex and gender. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products” states, “In the context of the donor history questionnaire, FDA recommends that male or female gender be taken to be self-identified and self-reported.”
Advocates for change to MSM prohibitions point out that screening of donors should focus on sexual behavior as well as safe sex practices since many MSM may always have protected sex, be monogamous, or be in other low risk categories. Some groups in favor of lifting the restrictions support a waiting period after the blood is donated when the donor is considered to have had behavior considered higher risk, and before it is used, to match the blood bank's window of testing methods. While HIV is reliably detected in 10 to 14 days with RNA testing, older testing methods provide accuracy for only up to 98% of positive cases after three months.
Questions and Answers
On 26 July 2016, Tomás Heneghan dropped his High Court challenge against the service as an end to the lifetime deferral on MSM blood donors had been announced in the interim. Heneghan then wrote about his experiences of challenging the ban in a number of national media outlets. On 2 October 2016, it was reported that Minister Harris would implement the new policy from 16 January 2017, almost seven months after he announced the policy change. On 16 January 2017, Heneghan (now 25) attended a blood donation clinic in D'Olier Street, Dublin and became the first man who has had sex with another man to donate blood openly in the Republic of Ireland since the lifetime deferral policy was first introduced in the 1980s. However he also criticised the new 12 month deferral policy on MSM and called on Ireland's Health Minister to initiate a review of the IBTS and replace the 12 month deferral period for MSM with no deferral or a 3 month deferral on all donors following sexual intercourse.
The men who have sex with men blood donor controversy is the dispute over prohibitions on donations of blood or tissue for organ transplants from men who have sex with men (MSM), a classification of men who engage (or have engaged in the past) in sex with other men, regardless of whether they identify themselves as bisexual, gay, or otherwise. Advocates for change to the prohibition is frequently addressed in terms of bisexual and gay men. Restrictions on donors are sometimes called "deferrals", since blood donors who are found ineligible may be found eligible at a later date. However, many deferrals are indefinite, meaning that these donations may not be accepted at any point in the future, thus constituting a de facto ban. The restrictions vary from country to country, and in many cases, men are deferred even though they always have protected sex or have not had sex with men for many years. The restrictions affect these men and, in some cases, any female sex partners. They do not otherwise affect other women, including women who have sex with women. The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asserts that the one year deferral window is "supported by the best available scientific evidence".
Policy and Process Information
In Ireland, Men who have sex with men (MSM) may donate blood if they have not engaged in oral or anal sex with another man at least 12 months prior to a donation. This policy came into effect from 16 January 2017. On 27 July 2015, Tomás Heneghan, a 23-year-old University of Limerick student and journalist from Galway began a legal challenge in the High Court against the permanent deferral imposed on MSM donors. He argued that the questionnaire and interview process used by the IBTS does not adequately assess the risk of disease transmission posed by his donation. He claims this is in breach of EU law. He said that both failed to consider the length of time between a donor's last sexual experience and the end of a "window period" in which infections are sometimes not detected. Heneghan's previous sexual activity posed no risk of infection, according to HSE-approved advice and he said the service had no evidence upon which it could legitimately impose a life-long ban on him donating blood. Following several adjournments of the case to allow the blood service and Department of Health to examine and develop the donation policies, in late June 2016 the Irish Blood Transfusion Service recommended that the lifetime ban on MSM be reduced to a 12 month ban. Later that week the Minister for Health Simon Harris agreed to the recommendations and announced the reduction would take place. However no timeline was reported for the implementation of the new policies.
Italy, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Spain are the only European countries that don't discriminate when it comes to blood donation. The donation is allowed if the donor hasn't had a risky sexual encounter, but not depending on the sexual orientation of the donor. The UK since November 2017 has implemented a 3 month deferral policy on all gay/bi men who want to donate their blood, the lowest in the western world. However this does not apply to Northern Ireland, which still has a 12 month deferral period in place. The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended the policy change after a study concluded that a total ban may breach equality legislation and that the risk of HIV reaching the blood supply would only increase by approximately 2%.
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There are massive amounts of residual fear about blood product contamination stemming from the contaminated blood scandals, which causes thousands of deaths due to HIV and Hepatitis C in patients requiring a blood transfusion. Contaminated blood put haemophiliacs at massive risk and severe mortality, increasing the risk of common surgical procedures. People who contracted HIV from a contaminated blood transfusion include Isaac Asimov, who received a blood transfusion following a cardiac surgery.