Wales come into line over blood donations from gay and bisexual men

Besi Besemar August 7, 2017

Wales becomes the latest country to change its blood donation restrictions to enable gay and bisexual men, and current and former sex workers, to donate blood three months after their last sexual activity.

The same changes were announced in England less than two weeks ago.

Sarah Fuhrmann, National Director for Terrence Higgins Trust in Wales, said: “We’ve long fought for an evidence-based blood donation policy across the UK, and are therefore delighted that the Welsh government has taken quick and decisive action to change its rules for sex workers and gay and bisexual men, just a week and a half after the same changes were announced in England. This means we will have a world-leading blood donations policy in Wales.

Sarah Fuhrmann
Sarah Fuhrmann

“Any restrictions on who can donate blood should be based on evidence, not stigmatising assumptions, so we’re heartened that the Welsh government is now looking into the possibility of personalised risk assessments for potential donors.”

Commenting on the policy for sex workers, she said: “It is a huge step forward to see the lifetime ban on former and current sex workers donating blood finally lifted in Wales. This is a victory for science over stigmatising assumptions. The lifetime blood donation ban on anyone who works or used to work in the sex industry in Wales is based on preconceptions rather than evidence, and the rules needed reviewing to fit the facts.

“We know from our research that the majority of sex workers take great care of their sexual health, with 98% of sex workers we asked rating their sexual health as very important, 76% having a sexual health check up every three months, and 98% knowing their HIV status.”

Commenting on the policy for gay and bisexual men, she added: “We’re pleased to see a further reduction in the deferral period for gay and bisexual men in Wales, and we welcome this progress.  

“However, we urge the Welsh government to invest in gathering more robust scientific evidence on the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses from men who engage in oral sex with men. We know from clinical and epidemiological experience that the risk of HIV from oral sex is extremely low, but more robust evidence is needed to update the policies.”

Sarah concluded: “The decisions announced today will enable more people in Wales to give blood and save lives, while maintaining the safety of the blood supply. We hope this paves the way for more progress as further evidence becomes available, and we’re now urging the Welsh government to continue to regularly review the deferral periods in line with the latest evidence.”