Potential blood donors will no longer be asked if they have recently had sex with a partner from an area where HIV is endemic, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A question on the sexual activity of partners in areas where HIV is widespread will be removed from blood forms to make donation more inclusive.
The Government has announced that people who want to give blood will be able to do so more easily from the end of 2021.
Currently, prospective donors are asked if they have recently had sex with a partner who may ever have been sexually active in an area where HIV is endemic, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa.
If they have, the donor will be deferred for three months after the last sexual contact with that partner.
But this can mean Black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood, the Department of Health said.
It is hoped that, by removing the question, inclusivity and equity for donors will be improved – without compromising safety.
This change will also provide more opportunities for people to donate for the ongoing need for rarer blood types – helping to save UK lives, a government statement added.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives.
“We are creating a fairer system for blood donation. And, as we recover from this pandemic, we are committed to levelling up society, which includes improving access to services for everyone.”
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State has confirmed this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from blood donor screening forms.
“The science is clear that this is unnecessary and does nothing to improve safety.
“Instead, it actively prevents much-needed donors coming forward to give blood, particularly from black communities.”
Other questions will remain on the donor form to ensure individual, high risk behaviours are picked up and those donors are deferred.
It is estimated that the risk of an HIV infectious donation not being detected corresponds to one in 23 million.
The change follows recommendations from a collaboration of experts in the UK blood services and LGBT+ charities.
The group looked at the implications of the question and concluded it could safely be removed.