LONDON — Blood donation rules for sex workers and gay men are being relaxed in England and Scotland after improvements in the accuracy of testing procedures, the BBC reports.
Men who have sex with men can now give blood three months after their last sexual activity instead of 12. And sex workers, who were previously barred from donating, now can, subject to the same three-month rule, the BBC reports.
Experts said the move would give more people the opportunity to donate blood without affecting blood supply safety.
The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, which advises UK health departments, recommended the changes after concluding that new testing systems were accurate and donors were good at complying with the rules, the BBC reports.
All blood that is donated in the UK undergoes a mandatory test for Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, plus a couple of other viruses.
Scientists agree that three months is a comfortably long window for a virus or infection to appear and be picked up in the blood, the BBC reports.
Prof. James Neuberger, from the committee, said, “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,” according to the BBC article.
The rule changes will come into force at blood donation centers in Scotland in November, and in early 2018 in England.
The changes affect groups including: men who have sex with other men, people who have sex with high-risk partners (for example, those who have been in areas where HIV is common) and commercial sex workers. They will now all be able to donate blood after abstaining from sex for three months, the BBC reports.
The UK government is also considering relaxing the rules for people who have undergone acupuncture, piercing, tattooing and endoscopies, and for those with a history of non-prescribed injecting drug use.
But these also need changes to current EU legislation, the BBC reports.