Blood donation rules to be updated to remove discriminatory criteria
Today the Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that the question; ‘In the last three months, have you had sex with someone who may ever have had sex in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS is very common’, will finally be removed from blood donor screening forms. The change brings England in line with Scotland and Wales who have also recently removed such a screening criteria, following updated scientific guidance and expert evidence.
The question, which has been actively under review for some time, is vague, difficult for both health professionals and potential donors to interpret, let alone, answer. The reference to Africa which is often included in the questions (not the only continent with countries with higher HIV prevalence) is misleading, and perpetuated stereotypes and an overly simplistic understanding of travel related HIV risks.
The implementation and inclusion of this question disproportionately impacted Black people in the UK, particularly those of Black African background. This ran counter to an active government campaign to see increased blood donations from black communities.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), based on the work of the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group, provided evidence to the Government’ science committee (SaBTO) to support this question being removed without impacting on the safety of the blood supply. Other questions already used related to sexual health risk and travel related risks are more than sufficient to identify and defer higher risk individuals. The Government’s own scientific advisors accepted this assessment and agreed to such a change.
Today’s long awaited announcement that the Department of Health and Social Care will agree such a change, follows an active campaign from National AIDS Trust (NAT) and other HIV sector partners. In June NAT wrote to the Secretary of State, alongside Terrence Higgins Trust and the One Voice Network calling for this change to be made urgently.
The issue has also been raised in Parliament by MPs such as Florence Eshalomi MP.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of 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“We are delighted that the Secretary of State has confirmed this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from blood donor screening forms.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. The change is long overdue, and we warmly welcome today’s announcement.”
For more details please contact Joe Lester on email@example.com or 020 7814 6727.
About National AIDS Trust
We’re the UK’s HIV rights charity. We work to stop HIV from standing in the way of health, dignity and equality, and to end new HIV transmissions. Our expertise, research and advocacy secure lasting change to the lives of people living with and at risk of HIV.