The UK has revised the eligibility criteria for blood donation that will now allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, platelets, and plasma just like everyone else.
The rules for blood donation have been discriminatory against the LGBTQ+ community. Men who have sex with men (MSM) were not allowed to donate blood for at least 12 months after having sex. They would be eligible only after abstaining for a year. This rule was changed in 2020 after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the deferral period be reduced to just three months during the pandemic to encourage more blood donations, as reported by Medical News Today. The same rule also applied in the UK until it was revised on June 14, which is observed as World Blood Donor Day.
New eligibility criteria have been introduced that now allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, platelets, and plasma. They will not be asked if they have had sex with another man and will be going through the same screening process as others. Their sexual orientation will not play a role in their ability to donate blood. According to The Independent, if someone has had the same sexual partner for the last three months, they will be eligible to donate blood. Their gender, other sexual behavior, will not be considered. The new rules came into effect on June 14 in England, Scotland and Wales.
20 years after I first tried to #giveblood, I am now allowed— (((Richard Angell))) (@RichardAngell) June 14, 2021
Today I did what I consider to be the health equivalent of jury service: I donated a pint of blood, and hopefully saved a life. pic.twitter.com/LNvtlRy5Wb
The new rules mean, men who have been waiting to donate blood for years can finally do so without prejudice getting in the way. It is a historic moment for Richard Angell who has waited for 20 years to donate blood. The first time he tried to donate blood, he had run away from the center after learning he was not eligible to do so. "When I was 17 I went with some friends to go and give blood," Angell, who now works for the Terrence Higgins Trust which campaigns around HIV and sexual health in the UK, told Metro. "I view giving blood as the health equivalent of jury service – like a kind of civic duty. If everyone does it a couple of times it will ensure we have enough blood for everyone. That’s why I wanted to do it."
More gay and bisexual men will be allowed to donate blood, platelets and plasma after "historic" new rules came into effect.— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 14, 2021
Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust Ian Green says while the changes are "really welcome news" they don't "go far enough."https://t.co/M1lDznSYoc pic.twitter.com/oSKhV40O2U
He was shocked to learn that he was not allowed to donate because he was gay when the nurse was screening him. "The donor center was in my scout hut, so I knew it quite well," the 37-year-old explained what he did after finding out he was ineligible to donate blood. "So I went out behind the back and snuck out the fire escape because I could not have my friends see me leave. I just told them afterward I felt really faint. It was huge for me, and it remained really stigmatized – and makes you feel bad about being gay." After the rules were revised, he was finally able to donate blood.
Richard Angell became one of the first gay men to give blood today under the new rules https://t.co/DwOueTQuy4— Metro (@MetroUK) June 14, 2021
Angell shared a picture of himself donating blood on Twitter and said: "Today I did what I consider to be the health equivalent of jury service: I donated a pint of blood, and hopefully saved a life." Just like Angell, many other gay and bisexual men have come forward to donate blood. Married couple Carl and Martin are celebrating the overturning of the restrictions and are excited about donating their blood as well. "I am absolutely thrilled to be booked in to donate under these changes," Cal told BBC. "It is only fair in today's society that everyone's behaviors should be treated the same and not by the gender of their partner." His husband Martin added: "Today is a very special day for Carl and I."