Gay blood donor ban to be lifted
The lifetime ban on blood donations by homosexual and bisexual men will be lifted in England, Scotland and Wales.
Ministers have agreed to let men who have not had sex with another man in the past 12 months to donate from November.
The restrictions were put in place in the 1980s to prevent the risk of HIV contamination.
However, the latest medical evidence presented to a government panel argued the ban could no longer be justified.
Ministers in the three countries accepted the argument and said they would be relaxing the rules. Northern Ireland is expected to make a decision soon.
Several other countries have already come to similar verdicts.
The National Blood Service screens all donations for HIV and other infections. However, there is a "window period" after infection during which it is impossible to detect the virus.
In the UK, a lifetime ban was introduced in the early 1980s as a response to the Aids epidemic and the lack of adequate HIV tests.
Most new HIV infections acquired in the UK are from men who have sex with men.
Other at-risk groups, such as people who have been sexually active in high-risk countries, are banned from donating for a year.
The lifetime ban had been questioned both on equality and medical grounds, in the light of developments such as improved blood screening tests which have reduced the size of the "window period" and reduced the risk of contamination.
South Africa has introduced a six-month gap between sex and donation. It is a year in Australia, Sweden and Japan.
Research published at the end of last year suggested there was no significant increase in the risk of HIV infection after the change in the rules in Australia.
The UK government's Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs had been reviewing the policy.
During its meeting in January, it was argued that "the evidence does not support the continuation of the ban", and "the evidence supports a 12-month deferral period since last occurrence be introduced for men who have had oral or anal sex with another man, whether a condom or other protective was used or not".
Earlier in the year the Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting the ban.
Source: BBC News