Gay and bi men in England, Wales and Scotland no longer have to abstain from sex for a year to donate blood. Instead, new regulations taking effect today require only a three-month waiting period.
The change was first announced in July following new recommendations from the U.K.’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, fears and a lack of reliable testing led to a lifetime ban on blood donation from gay men in the United Kingdom. That changed in 2011, when the government amended the ban to one year without sex.
The newest guidelines reflects improved testing techniques, which can detect HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis contracted within the past three months.
“We hope many gay and bisexual men who are now able to donate, do so with their peers,” Scott Cuthbertson of Scotland’s Equality Network told the BBC. “These new rules are a welcome and significant step forward.”
Cuthbertson is still concerned that men in low-risk categories, such as those in monogamous relationships, will still not be allowed to donate. He and other LGBT activists ultimately want to the blanket policy replaced with individualized risk assessments, as is the case in Argentina, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and elsewhere.
The U.S. dropped its lifetime ban in favor of a year abstinence in 2015. Last year, the FDA said it was reconsidering its policy and requested public comment on the issue, which it is still reviewing.