LGBTI rights activists have slammed a relaxation of Britain’s ban on gay men donating blood, saying that the new policy remains discriminatory.

While gay men were previously banned for life from donating blood, they will now be able to donate blood as long as they have not had any kind of gay sex in the past 12 months.

The new rules were criticised by activist Peter Tatchell as being excessive and unjustified.

“Most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. If they always have safe sex with a condom, have only one partner and test HIV negative, their blood is safe to donate. They can and should be allowed to help save lives by becoming donors,” said Tatchell.

He added that “an evidence-based policy” was required and that “it should focus on excluding donors who have engaged in risky sexual behaviour and those whose HIV status cannot be accurately determined…,” not their sexuality.

LGBTI rights group Stonewall described the news as “a step in the right direction” but expressed concern that gay men engaged in low-risk sexual activity are still to be excluded from giving blood while heterosexuals engaged in higher risk activity will not.

It said that all those who donate blood should be asked about their sexual behaviour and assessed appropriately, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Stonewall will continue to push for a donation system based on the real risks a potential donor poses. People wanting to donate blood should be asked similar questions – irrespective of their sexual orientation – that accurately assess their level of risk of infection. Sadly, the proposed new system will still fail to do this,” said Chief Executive Ben Summerskill.

In 2006, South Africa’s National Blood Services also revised its outright ban to allow gay men who are celibate for six months to donate blood. Italy and Spain have entirely lifted the ban on gay men giving blood.

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