Gay men to be al­lowed to do­nate blood af­ter equip­ment in­vest­ment

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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