New Government Decision Strengthens Inclusivity in Blood Donation

Pavankumar Kamat

October 12, 2021

A new decision by the Government will enable more individuals to donate blood easily from the end of 2021, especially Black African donors.

The Government has announced that the question pertaining to sexual activity in Sub-Saharan Africa will be deleted from the donor safety check, based on recommendations from the For Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group. The steering group assessed the implications of the question and inferred that it could safely be removed.

Minister for Patient Safety, Maria Caulfield, said: "By constantly examining the latest evidence relating to blood donation, we are able to bring forward more inclusive policies to allow more people to donate blood easily, and safely."

Currently, prospective blood donors are asked if they have engaged in any sexual activity in a region where HIV is endemic, primarily sub-Saharan Africa. In such cases, donation will be deferred for 3 months following the last sexual contact with the partner, thereby hindering some Black African individuals and other individuals in long-term relationships from donating blood.

Individuals of Black African, Black Caribbean and Black mixed ethnicity have a higher likelihood of carrying the rare blood subtype Ro. The change will also improve and save lives of individuals with rarer blood types needing transfusions.

England's Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: "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."

Su Brailsford, Associate Medical Director at NHS Blood and Transplant and Chair of FAIR said: "We are proud to have one of the safest blood supplies in the world and I’m pleased that the latest evidence-based advice on donor eligibility has been accepted in full, creating an even more equitable, better experience for all donors."

Various HIV and sexual health charities, including Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust have emphatically welcomed the decision.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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