Blood donation to be made more inclusive

People who want to donate blood, particularly Black African donors, will be able to do so more easily from the end of 2021 under new government plans.

The government is planning to remove the question on sexual activity in Sub-Saharan Africa asked in the donor safety check. Currently, prospective donors are asked if they have recently had sex with a partner who may ever have been sexually active in an area where HIV is endemic, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa.

If they have, the donor will be deferred for three months after the last sexual contact with that partner. This can mean Black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood.

People who are Black African, Black Caribbean and of Black mixed ethnicity are more likely to have the rare blood sub-group, such as Ro, that many Black sickle cell patients need.

It is hoped that removing the question will help to improve inclusivity and equity for Black African, and other, donors. Other questions remain on the donor form to ensure individual, high risk behaviours, including recent travel to countries where HIV is endemic, are picked up and those donors are deferred from donation.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is another progressive step forward, focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals, and reducing limitations for people to donate blood. This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives. We are creating a fairer system for blood donation. And as we recover from this pandemic, we are committed to levelling up society, which includes improving access to services for everyone.”

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