UK to Introduce New MSM Blood Donation Policy

December 14, 2020

Men who have sex with men (MSM) in a long-term relationship will be able to donate blood in the United Kingdom following changes to blood donation criteria announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday. The policy change will take effect by summer 2021 and will apply in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The announcement follows the recent recommendation from the Advisory Committee for the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs that donors who have had one sexual partner and who have been with their sexual partner for more than 3 months will be eligible to donate regardless of their gender, the gender of their partner or the type of sex they have. 

All donors will complete the same donor health check prior to donation, and potential donors will no longer be asked to declare if they have had sex with another man. Instead, updated donor deferral criteria will focus on identifying a wider range of “highest risk behaviors,” which will apply to all donors, regardless of sexuality.

“This landmark change to blood donation is safe and it will allow many more people, who have previously been excluded by donor selection criteria, to take the opportunity to help save lives,” Hancock said.

Following implementation, monitoring by the U.K. blood services will ensure new donor selection criteria do not have any unforeseen consequences. Regulators will also develop methods to monitor overall deferral and record any changes in acute and chronic infections in new and regular donors.

The policy change is the culmination of work by the ‘For Assessment of Individualized Risk’ (FAIR) steering group, a collaboration of U.K. blood services and LGBT charities led by NHS Blood and Transplant, that conducted extensive research into the risks associated with more individualized blood donor selection policy. The group’s report concluded that donors who have had the same sexual partner in the last three months and who don’t have an sexually transmitted infection should be eligible to donate.