Blood donation rules have been relaxed for gay men in England and Scotland, following improvements in the accuracy of testing procedures.
Men who have sex with men will soon be able to give blood three months after they last had sexual activity, instead of the previous rule of twelve months.
The rule changes will be implemented in Scotland in November and in early 2018 in England.
The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended the changes after concluding that new testing systems were accurate and donors were good at complying with the rules.
All blood donated in the UK undergoes tests for Hepatitis B and C, HIV and a selection of other viruses.
Professor James Neuberger from The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs says: “Technologies to pick up the presence of the virus have greatly improved, so we can now pick up viruses at a much earlier stage in the infection, and therefore it’s much easier to tell if a blood donor has the virus.”
The new rules will also apply to sex workers who have also not had sex for the three months before their donation.
The UK government is in talks about relaxing blood donation rules for those who have recently undergone acupuncture, piercings, tattoos, endoscopies and those with a history of non-prescribed drug use.
Alex Phillips, blood donations policy lead at the Terrence Higgins Trust said the changes are a “victory for science over stigmatising assumptions.”
According to NHS Blood and Transplant, there is currently no shortage of blood in the UK but 200,000 new donors are needed each year in order to keep stocks replenished.
However, there is a particular need for new donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups to come forward.