The rules precenting gay and bisexual men from giving blood are to be reconsidered, the UK government has announced.
The issue will be reviewed by an advisory committee in 2016 after pressure from campaigners and parliamentarians.
Men who have sex with men (MSMs) are currently only able to donate blood following a year without sexual activity.
While the lifetime blood ban – introduced in 1980s at the height of the AIDS panic – was overturned in 2011, a “deferral period” was deemed necessary as there is a “window period” after infection with blood-borne viruses during which they are not detectable.
However, campaigners and medical professionals have urged a change in the regulations as they believe the scientific evidence does not justify a year-long period of abstinence.
A report issued by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) states that the HIV virus can be undetectable from between 9 to 15 days, while for hepatitis B it is 66 days.
Pro-change campaigners also point to countries such as Spain and Portugal, which have no deferral period.
Jane Ellison MP, Minister for Public Health, has confirmed the government will be reviewing the situation. “[We will be] making sure that the blood supply is safe is an absolute priority,” she said.
“Donor deferral for men who have sex with men was changed from lifetime to 12 months in 2011 but four years later it is time to look again at the question.
“Public Health England has just undertaken an anonymous survey of donors and I am pleased to say that SaBTO – the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs – will review the issue in 2016.”
Ms Ellison said that the blood service “doesn’t discriminate on sexual orientation”, but that “the deferral period is based on sexual activity and it applies to a number of other groups other than just men who have sex with men.”
The Freedom to Donate campaign was raised in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Michael Fabricant. Earlier this month, France announced it would be lifting its blood ban and would be introducing a deferral period initially with a view to staging it out.