Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy in the United Kingdom

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Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy in the United Kingdom

The MSM blood donor controversy in the United Kingdom refers to the deferral policy of men who have had sex with men (MSM) in the United Kingdom who wish to donate their blood to the National Blood Service (NBS).


In 1981, MSM were placed under a lifetime ban in terms of blood donation due to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. However, in September 2011 this lifetime ban was lifted in all parts of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland until September 2016), and a 1-year ban was put in place for MSM who are sexually active, regardless of whether safe sex practises were undertaken.

The NBS argues that this policy is necessary in order to protect public health and minimise the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV. The policy has been adopted based on the scientific advice of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs and has been kept under regular review. However, the policy has been criticised as being discriminatory towards gay men, and the deferral is opposed by groups such as the LGBT campaign of the NUS and Stonewall.

Lifetime ban lifted

In September 2011 it was reported that the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland until September 2016) would move from a lifetime ban to a one-year ban.

The gay rights group Stonewall said the move was a "step in the right direction". However, a spokesperson pointed to the fact that high-risk heterosexuals would still be less controlled than low-risk gay men: "A gay man in a monogamous relationship who has only had oral sex will still automatically be unable to give blood but a heterosexual man who has had multiple partners and not worn a condom will not be questioned about his behaviour, or even then, excluded." The Independent reported that Andy Wasley, editor in chief of So So Gay magazine, called for "more precise selection criteria" to be used in identifying high-risk potential donors.

It was not clear how much the total amount of blood donated would change following this change, Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, is quoted as saying it is impossible to say how many men would actually be able to start donating blood, as "the vast majority of gay men are still (sexually) active".


The Green Party of England and Wales claims that they will "push for consultation on reducing the 12-month blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men, based on individual risk assessment where the donor is identified to be not at risk of passing infections into the blood supply" in their General Election Manifesto and LGBTIQ Manifesto.

The Liberal Democrats' first opposition day motion in the 2015 Parliament called for the government to end the 'gay blood ban'.


Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy in the United Kingdom Wikipedia