Gay men to be allowed to donate blood after equipment investment
Gay men will be allowed to donate blood as of next year, following investment by the health authorities in new equipment that reduces the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections.
Gay men are currently prohibited from donating blood due to the risk of transmission of HIV, which is disproportionately present amongst such people. With the introduction of equipment which carries out nucleic acid testing (NAT), the risk of transmission is heavily reduced meaning that men in a relationship with other men will be able to donate blood.
Minister for Health Chris Fearne said the equipment would be in place in around six months. A study was also underway to ascertain whether the donation centre, which is currently situated near St. Luke’s Hospital in Gwardamangia, could be moved closer to Mater Dei Hospital over the next three and a half years.
Speaking at the launch of a refurbished mobile blood transfusion unit, Fearne called on people to donate blood, as there is a constant need for 50 bags per day. A supply of blood is essential for operations, accidents and cancer treatment. Fearne said that there were around 16,000 blood donations last year, and 2,000 people had registered as new donors.
Addressing the media on Wednesday, Speaker Anglu Farrugia, himself a regular donor, urged people over 60 to continue donating until they turn 68. He said that every donor could help three people with just one donation, and called blood donation “the noblest thing one can do” and something that outweigh any financial gift.
The director of the donation centre Alex Aquilina meanwhile cautioned that blood reserves were low, and urged people to donate at the centre when they could.
Aquilina said that whilst blood donation is usually low throughout August; it has not been so scarce in years, and this could result in surgeons having to cancel operations.
Those who wish to give blood and have returned from abroad over the past four weeks should call on 8007 4313 to check whether they are eligible. Donors should take their identity card, driving licence or Maltese passport with them.
The centre is open from Monday to Sunday between 8am and 6pm. Donors can also go to the Gozo General Hospital’s outpatient department every other Sunday, from 8am to 1pm and every alternate Tuesday from 1 to 5pm.
For more information, you can find National Blood Transfusion Service – Malta on Facebook.