England to remove another ‘discriminatory’ barrier to blood donation :: WRAL.com

– England is set to remove an “outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory” issue from blood donation forms, which activists say has primarily affected the ability of black communities to donate blood.

It comes after UK-wide changes in June made it easier for sexually active gay and bisexual men to donate blood – overturning a ban that began during the HIV / AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and who had been decried as homophobic for years.

By the end of this year, potential donors will no longer be asked if they have recently had sex with a partner who may have been sexually active in the past “in areas of the world where HIV / AIDS is present. widespread “, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, those who answer “yes” are deferred for three months after the last sexual contact with this partner.

“Concretely, this current rule in England means that a person who has a long-term monogamous relationship with a person from Africa or who has previously lived in Africa would most likely be unable to donate blood,” said the British lawmaker. Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West and Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid last month.

Owatemi and Owen’s letter, posted on the website of the British association for HIV and sexual health, the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the issue was acting “as a significant hurdle for many people who might wish to donate. blood, and this comes at the expense of the NHS [National Health Service] The current push for Blood and Transplant to get more black people to donate blood. “

The NHS website says: “At the moment we are in need of black donors due to an increase in demand for certain rare blood groups which are more common in people of black descent.”

“People from black Africa, black Caribbean and mixed black ethnicity are more likely to have the rare blood subgroup, such as Ro, which many black patients with sickle cell disease require. This change will provide more opportunities for people to donate for the continued need for rarer blood types, ”the UK Department of Health said in a press release.

The Department of Health said the issue would be removed from donor safety screening in England following research conducted by the Fair (For the Assessment of Individualized Risk) steering group and supported by the Donor Safety Advisory Committee. blood, tissues and organs (Sabto).

The question has already been removed in the decentralized nations of Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland has not announced any changes.

National AIDS Trust Chief Executive Deborah Gold said in a statement: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State has confirmed that this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from donor screening forms.

“The science is clear that this is unnecessary and does nothing to improve safety. Instead, it actively prevents much-needed donors from stepping forward to donate blood, especially from black communities. Change is long overdue. and we warmly welcome today’s announcement. “

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid called it “another gradual step forward, focusing on individual behaviors, rather than general postponements, and reducing the limitations for people to donate blood”.

“This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, which will ultimately save lives,” Javid said.

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