Blood ban still in force

Photo: model of the H I V virus under a microscope

Jersey’s blood donation service is open again after it was shut in January due to not meeting national and EU standards. Despite the unit announcing that ”anyone between the ages of 17 and 65, who is fit and well” can donate at the new centre, it is still the case that men who have had sex with men (MSM) in the last 12 months cannot donate. In the UK, the time limit was dropped to 3 months in November 2017.

The obvious question is why Jersey is not following the UK where medical research shows that 3 months is sufficient time to know whether someone is HIV positive. The less obvious question is why there is still a ban on this particular group at all?

In the UK the social groups that show that highest instances of HIV infection are MSM, men and women from the black African community, those who inject drugs using shared needles or syringes, and members of the transgender community engaged in sex work. So, why are just MSM targeted with the ban? It makes no sense.

What makes more sense is to screen blood donors better to establish whether their lifestyle and sexual habits make them at risk of being HIV positive and therefore unable to donate blood at that time. Anyone in a monogamous relationship (who is not diagnosed as HIV positive and not engaging in high risk behaviours, such as injecting drugs) should be eligible to donate blood, irrespective of their sexual orientation, race or gender identity.

The removal of this imprecise ban is still being fought for by charities in the UK since the lifetime ban on MSM donating blood was imposed in 1980. It’s about time individual risk assessment was introduced for all blood donors and the discrimination against one particular social group was stopped.

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