20/09/2011 11:59 BST | Updated 20/11/2011 10:12 GMT

Blood Ban: Restrictions On Gays Giving Blood Should Be Lifted, Say Lib Dems

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Restrictions on gay men giving blood should be lifted, potentially allowing a further two million people to donate, the Liberal Democrats have said.

A recent announcement that gay men would be allowed to donate only if they have not had sex for 12 months was condemned as a "ban by any other name".

Activists at the party's conference in Birmingham expressed "dismay" that the Government's shift on the issue did not go far enough and called for more stringent testing for HIV and other transfusion-transmitted diseases on all donations.

A lifetime ban on blood donation by men who had had sex with another man was put in place in the UK in the 1980s as a response to the spread of Aids and HIV.

But following a review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, men who have not had homosexual sex within a year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria.

The recommendation has been accepted by health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales, and the ban will be lifted on November 7.

But Dij Davies, from West Lothian Lib Dems, told the gathering: "This is simply a ban by another name."

He said blood stocks were dangerously low and added: "The new rules are better, don't get me wrong.

"But they are still fundamentally flawed and do not adequately safeguard the blood bank. The deferral does not take into account whether the men who have sex with men are using a condom or not, it does not separate those in a relationship from those who engage in sex with casual partners. And, crucially, it asks no such questions of heterosexual people at all."

Martin Shapland, from Vauxhall, south London, said the original outright ban was a "hangover of a Thatcherite stigma when HIV was seen solely as a gay disease" but the majority of people diagnosed today were straight.