Sweden’s gay blood ban to stay

A proposal to allow gay men in Sweden to give blood is to be put on hold for at least another year after concerns were raised by health authorities.

The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) had been expected in November to end Sweden’s lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men.

The ban was put in place to prevent the spread of HIV, but in the summer the board proposed changes which would have allowed blood donations from gay men who had not had sex for six months.

Socialstyrelsen is now planning to meet on 8th December. But Torsten Mossberg, medical adviser, said he would be recommending that the ban stays in place:

“The board will make the decision, but we will be recommending that men who have sex with men remain banned,” he said.

“We need to carry out a more thorough risk analysis, and expect to return with a new proposal towards the end of next year,” Mossberg told The Local, adding that any new proposals to end the ban would not be ready until the end of next year.

Some of the strongest objections to gay blood donors came from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR). Local health authorities are concerned that changes could put patient safety at risk and lea the international pharmaceutical industry to stop buying Swedish blood plasma.

“It’s a big change, and one must be certain that [six months] is long enough. We also need to know that industry will buy our plasma,” said Ellen Hyttsten, director of healthcare at SALAR.

Monica Axelsson at Socialstyrelsen said the decision to propose a continued ban had been taken after “a number of organisations” objected. She added that the final decision remained would be taken at the board meeting.

The current recommendations from Socialstyrelsen are not technically binding on blood banks, but are followed throughout Sweden.

The United States bans donations from anyone man who has had sex with another man since 1977, although the American Red Cross has called for a review of the policy.

Other countries, including Spain and Italy do not ban blood donations from sexually active gay men. Australia only bans men who have had gay sex in the preceding twelve months.