Despite the ever-rising need for donation of blood to make blood available for patients, a study published in The Lancet Haematology, showed that there are still unfair barriers to blood donation.
Previously, there had been barriers that prevented members of the LGBTQ+ from donating blood. However, on World Blood Donor Day, June 14, 2021, the criteria were changed to allow them to actively participate in blood donation. This improvement led to the review of a longstanding clause on donors from the Black communities or HIV endemic areas.
This clause required them to state if they had recently had sex with a sexually active person. Research taken by the Fair Assessment of Individualized Risk (FAIR) made the UK Department of Health and Social Care announce that the sexual contact eligibility clause had been removed from the donor safety check form. This decision was announced on October 11, 2021. The government, however, stated that blood for donations would continue undergoing all possible tests. Estimates show that the risk of HIV going undetected in blood was one in 23 million.
Individuals from the Black communities, who show a greater possibility of possessing the rare Ro blood group, have been continuously excluded from blood donations. Ro blood group is very important in the caring of Sickle Cell disease. The NHS has shown that the request for Ro blood for Sickle Cell has increased by 80% from 2016 to 2019, and the demand has increased with the disease’s complication from COVID-19.
Regardless of the significant reduction in barriers, challenges to active blood donation still exist whereas improvements have been made to blood screening processes. In addition to effective screening tests, pathogen-reduction technologies have been developed to inactivate pathogenic organisms in donated plasma. Despite these advances, Danny Beales of National AIDS Trust proclaims that there’s a present lifetime exclusion for individuals who have ever injected drugs.
Steps must be taken to reassess supposed high-risk groups to address fears and biases so suitability for blood donations can be determined on an individual level. This will go a long way to ensure every drop of safe blood is utilized.