Communicating the move to individualized donor selection policy: Framing messages focused on recipients and safety

Eamonn Ferguson*, Sarah Bowen, Claire Lawrence, Chris Starmer, Abigail Barr, Katy Davison, Claire Reynolds, Susan R. Brailsford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) have been deferred from donating blood. However, recent evidence supports the adoption of donor screening based on individuals' sexual behavior over population-based criteria. We explore how best to frame communications about adopting this change to minimize any potential negative consequences (e.g., reduced donor numbers). We examine the effectiveness of risk (emphasizing safety vs. emphasizing low risk), and focus (donor vs. recipient) frames on intentions to donate blood (approach) or feeling deterred from donating (avoid), and mechanisms linked to under-reporting sexual behavior. Study Design and Methods: We conducted a 2 (risk frame: risk vs. safety) by 3 (focus: donor vs. recipient vs. both) between-subjects online experiment (n = 2677). The main outcomes were intentions to donate and feelings of being put-off/deterred from donating (both for self and others). We also assessed the extent that forgetting, embarrassment/shame, and question irrelevance were perceived to be associated with under-reporting sexual behavior. Results: Frames that focused on safety or a recipient resulted in people reporting being less deterred from donating. Regardless of frame, people from ethnic minorities were more likely to feel deterred. Embarrassment/shame followed by forgetting and perceived irrelevance were the main reasons for under-reporting sexual behaviors, especially in ethnic minorities, and smartphones were perceived as an acceptable memory aid for sexual behavior. Discussion: Blood services moving to an individualized policy should frame donor selection in terms of safety and/or a recipient focus, explore sensitivities in ethnic minority communities, consider ways to normalize reporting sexual behavior, and use smartphones as a memory aid.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a grant from the UKFORUM to Eamonn Ferguson & Claire Lawrence and by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/P008976/1] to Chris Starmer. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not reflect any of the organizations or funders related to this paper.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the UKFORUM and Economic and Social Reseaech Council (ESRC) for funding this work, and the wider FAIR steering group for support and general feedback on this reseach.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Transfusion published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of AABB.


  • behavior
  • framing
  • individualized
  • risk
  • safety
  • screening


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