Blood donation by men who have sex with men: using evidence to change policy

the UK Blood Donor Survey Steering Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In 2011 in the United Kingdom (UK), excluding Northern Ireland, the deferral of men who have sex with men (MSM) changed from lifetime to 12 months. We describe MSM who donated before and after this to inform further policy reviews. Materials and Methods: Characteristics and sexual behaviours of donors identifying as male from routine surveillance are described. Rates of infections are compared pre- and post-implementation of a 12-month deferral. Donors are compared with screen negative male donors responding to a large-scale survey during 2013/2014. Results: Comparing the five years pre- and post-change, the rate of confirmed positives for markers of HBV, HCV, HIV and syphilis decreased by 6·9% from 14·1 to 13·1/100 000 donations. The rate of recent infections was unchanged (1·72/100 000). Of 22 776 survey responses identifying as male, MSM disclosed sex between men over 12 months ago giving 99·35% compliance among male donors. Two-thirds of the 72 non-compliant MSM reported one to two partners and one-third had no new partners within 12 months. The most commonly reported reason for non-compliance from MSM both positive and negative for infection was ‘not important to declare’ (37·2% and 40·7%). Test seeking was rare (9·3% and 2·1%). Conclusion: Compliance with the 12-month MSM deferral policy was very high. The very low rates of infections post-change demonstrated the effectiveness of the policy. These data were an important part of the 2017 review of all sexual behaviour deferrals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-272
Number of pages13
JournalVox Sanguinis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare no conflict of interests. The UK Blood Donor Survey received funding from the UK Forum, a collaboration of the four UK blood services.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Crown Copyright. Vox Sanguinis © 2021 International Society of Blood Transfusion. The article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.


  • HIV
  • donor selection
  • men who have sex with men
  • policy and surveys
  • surveillance


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