Improvements in the accuracy of testing procedures have led to the blood donation rules for sex workers and gay men being relaxed. Both groups are now able to donate blood three months after their last sexual activity. Previous blood donation rules meant that men who have sex with men had to wait 12 months and sex workers were prevented from giving blood at all.
According to experts from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs– the group which advises UK health departments on blood donation rules – the latest innovations in testing procedure are accurate enough to warrant these changes. The group has also stated that this move will give many more people the chance to donate blood without affecting the safety of the supply.
Blood Donation Rule Changes
Up until 2011 men who had sex with men were completely excluded from donating blood. After a series of high-profile public campaigns, this was changed so gay and bisexual men could give blood 12 months after their most recent sexual activity.
Since then major HIV charities, most notably the Terrence Higgins Trust, have been campaigning for a review of the 12 month exclusion rule since 2011. The review was undertaken earlier this year and, following this scientific evaluation, the Advisory Committee have confirmed that the 12 month restriction is no longer necessary.
Blood Donation- What Does it Involve?
Giving blood is a simple, life-saving process that is now open to even more people. If you’ve never donated before, doing so can seem daunting and you might be worried about what it involves. However, the entire donation process is quick (it shouldn’t take more than an hour in total), easy and painless. All it takes is a few simple steps:
When you arrive at your appointment you will be greeted by a member of staff and asked to read a welcome leaflet. You will then be given 500ml of fluid to drink over the course of about five minutes- the purpose of this is to ensure your wellbeing during and after donation.
It is essential that the team taking the donation are sure that it is safe for a patient to receive your blood so there will be a brief health screening. During the health screening, a registered nurse will ask you to fill out a donor health check form and take a drop of blood from your finger to test for iron levels. If the screening shows that you are unable to give blood, this will be explained to you and you might be asked to make another appointment. If the health screening comes up clear, you will be seated in a waiting room until you are called to a donation chair.
When you have taken your seat, the nurse will ask your name, address and date of birth before examining your arm and putting on a cuff to exert a small amount of pressure. When the nurse has found a suitable vein they will clean your arm with an antiseptic sponge and insert a needle.
Your blood will be collected into a bag marked with your unique donor number and weighed until you have given 470ml (just under a pint). This part of the donation process will take around five minutes and should be painless.
When and Where to Donate
There are two types of venues where you can donate blood- permanent donor centres and temporary community based venues. There are a number of community venues across East Berkshire where you can go to give blood, these tend to be in locations like church halls, mosques, sports centres and hotels.
There are many dates and places you can go to give blood In East Berkshire and beyond including sessions in Wokingham and Maidenhead. Sessions are also regularly held at Bracknell Leisure Centre, so if you want to help save lives by giving blood, check out these centres to find a time that suits you.