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Gay blood donation restrictions relaxed in Wales after similar decision in England

By Ross Semple

The restrictions on gay and bisexual men giving blood have been relaxed in Wales, following the announcement of a similar policy in England.

From 2018, men who have sex with men will be able to give blood three months after their last sexual encounter. Presently, men have to wait a full year after having sex to give blood.

Sex workers, who were previously banned from donating entirely, will also be subject to the three-month rule. Those who have sex with ‘high-risk’

The announcement comes less than two weeks after a similar policy was announced in England in the wake of mounting pressure on the government from campaign groups to work towards an individual risk-based policy.

The changes in Wales are a result of recommendations by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SABTO).

Responding to the news, Mabali Jones of Stonewall Cymru said: “These changes to the blood donation rules are welcome.

“However, while this is an important move, it’s vital that this is a stepping stone to a system that doesn’t automatically exclude most gay and bi men.

“We would like to see a system where everyone is screened on their individual risk, and we are encouraged that the public health minister has asked the Welsh Blood Service to explore how this can be done.”

Sarah Fuhrmann, National Director for Terrence Higgins Trust in Wales, said: “We’re pleased to see a further reduction in the deferral period for gay and bisexual men in Wales, and we welcome this progress.

“However, we urge the Welsh government to invest in gathering more robust scientific evidence on the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses from men who engage in oral sex with men. We know from clinical and epidemiological experience that the risk of HIV from oral sex is extremely low, but more robust evidence is needed to update the policies.”

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