'It means a lot' - More gay and bisexual men able to give blood for first time as new rules introduced
Video report by ITV Wales journalist Charanpreet Khaira
Many gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood for the first time in Wales as new rules are introduced across the UK that will see a blanket ban relaxed.
Under previous rules, men who have sex with men had to abstain from sexual activity for three months in order to donate.
But in December last year, the then health minister Vaughan Gething announced this would no longer be the case and those who want to donate would instead be asked a set of questions about sexual behaviour.
At the time, he described the rule change as "tearing down one of the barriers of discrimination facing the LGBTQ+ community." He said, "This is a day not just of symbolic importance, but of great meaning to people who wanted to donate but were told they couldn't. We're now saying this will end. Our systems are robust, safe and no longer exclusionary."
From 14 June, all donors, regardless of gender, will now have to answer questions focused mainly on the last three months and male donors will no longer be asked if they have had sex with another man.
If there is no known exposure to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or if there has been use of anti-HIV drugs, they will be able to donate their blood, meaning more people from LGBTQ+ communities will be eligible.
Carl and Martin were the first couple to donate blood together under the new changes.
"It means a lot", said Carl.
"All the gay community ever does is strive for equality. We don't want anything different - we just want to be treated exactly the same as anyone else. So having this type of thing happening is just another step closer to that happening."
'It's good to be able to give something back': Married couple Carl and Martin are among the first in the UK to donate blood together under the new changes
Some of Martin's close family members have had blood transfusion treatments, and he's looking forward to be able to help another family in the same situation.
He said: "From my own personal experience with illnesses in the family with my dad and my niece both having leukaemia and the blood transfusion treatments that they had to have, it's good to be able to give something back now to a family that was in the same situation as we were."
The changes were agreed in the four nations of the UK, but there are reports the rollout has been delayed in Northern Ireland.
Zoe Gibson, Head of Nursing at Welsh Blood Service said all donations are screened for evidence of infection before they are sent to hospitals.
“Donation testing and donor selection go hand in hand to maintain the safety of the blood supply.
“Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. This change is about switching around the way we assess risks related to acquiring a sexual infection, in a way that is tailored to the individual. Our priority is to make sure that donors can answer the pre-donation questions in a setting that makes them feel comfortable and safe."
Arron Bevan-John and Alexander Bryant-Evans, of Blood Equality Wales, said the changes are welcomed, but there is "still a great deal of work to do".
“It is great to see these changes coming into force, especially after so many people in the LGBT+ community have fought and campaigned for changes to the rules around blood donation for such a long time.
“These changes are welcomed, but there is still a great deal of work to do in achieving absolute equality in the blood donation space. We will continue to work with partners such as the Welsh Blood Service so that one day everybody who can safely donate blood is able to.”
The First Minister gave blood for the 50th time today to mark World Blood Donor Day and the changes in eligibility rules.
Mr Drakeford said it was an important day in bringing an end to discrimination.
"I'm delighted to play my part and give blood today, on World Blood Donor Day, alongside those who have campaigned hard for this change and helped to make it happen.
"Blood donation can save and change lives and I would encourage anyone who is able and willing to donate."