Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP has confirmed today that a review into blood donations will take place in 2016, based on guidance issued from SabTO for all of the UK administrations.
The charity has been calling for the review for some time, and used National Blood Donations week this past June to reiterate this for the new government.
Shaun Griffin, Executive Director External Affairs, Terrene Higgins Trust said:
“We welcome today’s news. The 2011 review that the one year ban was based on is now out of date, and the rules need reviewing to fit the facts today.
“The review announced today, as well as considering the latest available data, should also address the contradictions attached to the lifetime ban on former sex workers and past intravenous drug users, which were not addressed in 2011.
“The safety of the blood supply must come first – but the one year ban, and the information the decision was based on is out of touch with the reality of conditions like hep C and HIV in 2015.”
The current regulatory decisions and restrictions are based on profiling the risks associated with certain behaviours, to ensure a safe blood supply for those receiving blood transfusions.
Terrence Higgins Trust would like to see the same regulations for all – but retains the stance that this can only realistically be attained when risks to MSM of HIV and other blood borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C are reduced to the level of that currently considered suitable for blood donations.
The 12 month restriction of four years ago means that men who have had sex with men, in the previous 12 months, would be unable to donate blood. This decision was based on the best available evidence at the time, and as a result of higher risks of blood borne viruses.
Watch the exchange here and scroll down to 10:13:11 or read it below:
Freedom to Donate Campaign:
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con):
What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Health on the Freedom to Donate campaign; and if she will make a statement.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison):
Making sure that the blood supply is safe is an absolute priority. Donor deferral for men who have sex with men was changed from lifetime to 12 months in 2011, but four years later it is time to look again at the question. Public Health England has just undertaken an anonymous survey of donors, and I am pleased to say that SaBTO—the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs—will review the issue in 2016.
The safety of blood is of course paramount, but the Minister will know that when I met her in December 2014 to discuss the issue, there were two matters about which I was very disturbed. One was someone from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs saying that the word of gay people was somehow less valuable than the word of straight people—that was disgraceful. Secondly, the Minister promised me that survey work would be available at the time of the general election, but when I put down a written question about it, she said that, in fact, such survey work was not being done—although she now says it is. I felt that she misled me at the time. Can she say more about how we are finally going to achieve equality in this matter? Many clinicians feel it is long overdue.
My hon. Friend and I did have a meeting, and I can confirm that the Public Health England survey has been undertaken and is currently being analysed. I do not recall that an official made that point. It is important to put it on the record that the blood service does not discriminate on sexual orientation: lesbians are free to give blood and their blood donations are much appreciated. The deferral period is based on sexual activity and it applies to a number of groups other than men who have sex with men. As I say, SaBTO will review the issue in the light of the PHE survey. I am always happy to discuss this with my hon. Friend.