The ban on sexually-active gay and bisexual men being allowed to donate blood, platelets and plasma has been partially lifted in England, Scotland and Wales.
New rules that come into effect from Monday (14), World Blood Donor Day, do not screen out donors if they are a man who has had sex with another man, NHS Blood and Transplant said.
Instead, everyone who attends to give blood regardless of gender will be asked if they have had sex and, if so, about recent sexual activity.
Gay and bisexual men who have had only one sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible to donate, allowing more people to donate without increasing risk of contamination.
Under the original rules instated at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, men who have sex with men were banned from donating blood for life.
In 2011, the policy was changed to permit donations by gay and bisexual men who have not had sex in the past 12 months, and in 2017 it was revised again to allow donations by men who have not had sex in the past three months – but sexually active men were still excluded, even if they were in monogamous relationships.
The move to ditch the ban come after years of pressure from campaigners, who argued that the policy did not reflect current risk levels or screening capabilities.
The changes mean England, Scotland and Wales now have some of the most progressive policies on blood donations in the world – though a three-month deferral period will remain in place in Northern Ireland until September at the earliest.
MSM is a medical term used in many countries for the purpose of depoliticising national STD control initiatives. Any man who has sex with another man can be considered in this catergory, including but not limited to gay and bisexual men. This category also covers men who happen to be heterosexual.
In many countries, MSM is considered a key population towards sexually transmitted infections including HIV, on the basis of their sexual activeness and the nature of their sexual behaviour. This, however, leads to controversy as to whether only MSM communities can be categorised on the basis of their sex life, excluding those depicting the same bahaviours outside the norm.
The gay and bisexual community is largely discriminated against in many countries on the grounds of the standardisation of MSM being a key population towards HIV and other STIs. Human rights activists point out that certain groups influenced by religious, cultural or poplitical views are using this to promote disrepute aimed at the LGBTIQ community in general.