Blood donors have welcomed changes to the rules for donation which have been described as “fairer and more inclusive”.
UK blood services will now assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying across-the-board restrictions following key recommendations of the Fair (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) Report.
It means bodies such as the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) will ask all donors the same questions about their recent sexual activity to ensure blood safety.
Previously excluded potential donors – including low-risk sexually active gay men – will now be allowed to give blood from Monday.
Among those affected by the change on World Blood Donor Day are married couple Steven Smillie and Tyler McNeil, both 35, from Edinburgh.
Mr Smillie said: “I am looking forward to giving blood for the first time in 17 years.
“It is right in a fair and equal society that the ability to donate blood should be based on an individual’s behaviours and not the gender of their partner.
“I’m grateful for the efforts of campaigners, academics and clinicians who have enabled this change.”
Mr McNeil, a veterinary surgeon, added: “I am aware from my work with animals how donated blood can save lives and I am glad that the changes in the blood donation criteria will enable me to donate for the first time in my life.”
James Perrie, from Falkirk, will give his first donation at the Glasgow Donor Centre following the change in restrictions.
He said: “As a gay man working for the SNBTS, I have always felt sad that I was unable to take part in blood donation due to my sexual orientation, especially when you hear all the good that the donation can do.
“Now, with Fair, I feel much more included as an individual and love the fact that I am not only donating blood on World Blood Donor Day but also during Pride month.”
The SNBTS is also issuing a call for more people to come forward to volunteer as blood donors with a target of 500 new blood donors each week over the summer months.
Dr Lorna McLintock, SNBTS consultant in donor medicine, said: “This is welcome news and comes as the result of extensive review by a panel of experts.
“The change is fairer and more inclusive, and allows us to undertake more individualised assessment of donor eligibility while maintaining blood safety.
“These changes to the way UK blood services assess the risk of transfusion transmitted infections incorporate the key recommendations of the Fair Report.
“The recommendations were designed to recognise that by combining donor questions with state-of-the-art testing we can keep our blood supply as safe as possible.”
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