In the early 1980s, gay men1 were given a lifetime ban from blood donation in the UK. The UK blood donation service argued that it was necessary to protect public health and minimise the spread of blood-borne sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV. The policy was criticised as being discriminatory towards gay men, and the (12-month) deferral opposed by groups such as the National Union of Students (NUS) and Stonewall.
In 2011, the lifetime ban was replaced by a 12-month ban2 for gay men who were sexually active, regardless of whether safer sex was practised or not. In 2017, a new blood donation policy was implemented3 where gay men could give blood 3 months after their last sexual activity instead of 12.
In December 2020, the Government announced changes to blood donation rules with a move to individualised risk assessments for all potential donors. Eligibility will be based on behaviours rather than blanket rules based on gender or sexuality. The changes come into effect from summer 2021.
1 Including bisexual men and men who have sex with men (MSM).
2 Excluding Northern Ireland until 2016.
3 Scotland, England and Wales
Men who have sex with men (MSM) | Give Blood NHS
Blood donor rules to be relaxed for gay and bisexual men in England | Guardian | 14 Dec 2020
Donation change to allow more gay and bisexual men to give blood | BBC | 14 Dec 2020
Gay men blood donation rules changed in favour of individual assessments | THT Press Release | 14 Dec 2020
Landmark change to blood donation criteria | Press Release | GOV.UK | 14 Dec 2020
Blood without bias | GMB | 12 Jun 2020
Gay and bisexual blood donation around the world | UNILAD | 14 Nov 2019
Blood donation: What are the rules about giving blood? | BBC | 10 June 2019
Blood donation: a step forward | Stonewall | 21 Jul 2017
Gay blood donation: Lifetime ban in NI on gay men donating blood is to be lifted | BBC | 1 Jun 2016
Gay blood donors denied under 1980s policy that has been slow to change | The Guardian | 13 Dec 2015
Gay men blood donor ban to be lifted | BBC | 8 Sep 2011
HIV transfusion victims unaware of virus for decades, inquiry told | Guardian | 5 Jun 2007
Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy in the United Kingdom | Wikipedia
Blood | Wikipedia
Blood donation in England | Wikipedia
Jehovah's Witnesses and blood transfusions | Wikipedia
Contaminated haemophilia blood products | Wikipedia
Blood groups | NHS
Fainting at the sight of blood | Mayo Clinic
Why can't gay men donate blood? | Matt Baume | 9 Dec 2016 | 4m 47s↑ Back to top