Blood donation ban for gay men may be shortened in 2020

A blanket ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in 2014, but a 12-month waiting period introduced at that time.

File picture of nurse taking blood / Credit: iStock

A year-long ban on donating blood for men who have sex with other men may be shortened in 2020.

The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea has launched an a review of its regulations which currently state that gay men have to wait 12 months between having sex and donating blood.

The time may be significantly shortened to just four months, after concerns the policy is discriminatory and unfair.

Fimea heard from 14 different specialists on the matter, who did not see any obstacle in reducing the timeline. Statements were reviewed at a meeting of experts earlier in November.

The regulation change will begin its second round of consultations early next year and Fimea aims for the new regulations to take effect at the end of June 2020.

Previously, Finland had banned all gay men giving blood but that ban was lifted in 2014, and the 12-month waiting period introduced at that time.

The reason behind the stricter practices is that men who have sex with men are more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population.

According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL one in four HIV diagnoses in the last ten years were for men who have sex with other men.

However, while it is true that gay men are at higher risk than the general population of contracting a blood-borne virus or infection, at the same time there is now no scientific justification for a year-long ban, as modern HIV tests are able to detect infections within weeks and the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service tests every donation for viruses.

Both THL and the Red Cross Blood Service believe that a four-month suspension after sex between men would be sufficient time to prevent infection.

In Finland some 50,000 patients need blood products every year. That means approximately 800 blood donors are required every weekday.