The Hong Kong Red Cross announced a new rule for blood donations. Starting 25 September, men who have not had sex with other men for the past 12 months will be able to donate blood.
Previously, men who had sex with other men were ‘indefinitely’ barred from donating.
The change comes from scientific evidence and other countries’ experiences with changing their blood donation rules.
‘Previous studies showed that those men would be more honest in answering health assessment questions [after the change of policy],’ said Dr. Lee Cheuk-kwong, chief executive and medical director of the organization’s blood transfusion service (BTS).
‘The risk could be further reduced.’
Now, donors simply need to be honest on their health questionnaires. However, that’s not all. Science advances also help in allowing gay and bisexual men to donate. According to Lee, the nucleic acid test can now check for HIV within six days. Previously, a person had to be infected for at least 22 days.
Lee expects there to be no dramatic increase in donations, but there’s still a need for them. A big one.
On Thursday, the BTS reported inventories have fallen to an ‘alarming level’. Health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee also made a similar plea to increase and support blood donations.
‘What matters most,’ said Hong Kong Patients’ Voices chairman Alex Lam Chi-yau. ‘Is whether the donor has been involved in safe sex, which is a concern for both homosexual and heterosexual people.’