Changes making it easier for gay and bisexual men to give blood have been announced by the Scottish Government.
The current deferral period which means that men cannot give blood within 12 months of having sex with another man will be reduced to three months under the plans.
The change, ordered by Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell, will be implemented by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and follows recommendations from the UK’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
The new rules, which also apply to commercial sex workers and people who have sex with partners classed as high-risk, are likely to be brought in north of the border in November.
LGBTI campaigners have welcomed the measure but said it does not completely eliminate “discrimination in blood donation”.
Campbell said: “The safety of blood supplies is paramount, and we have one of the safest supplies in the world.
Fears over infections being passed on through donations from gay men led to an outright ban at the height of the Aids epidemic but that was cut to 12 months in 2011.
Campbell said she sympathises with the strength of feeling on the part of gay and bisexual men about the current deferral policies and said the SNBTS has been asked to look into the possibility of individualised risk assessments.
Scott Cuthbertson, development manager with LGBTI charity the Equality Network, said: “These rule changes are a welcome and significant step forward which will inevitably allow more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.
“We remain concerned, however, that many low- risk gay and bisexual men, for example those in monogamous relationships, will still not be allowed to donate under this new policy.
“Crucially as part of these rule changes SNBTS have committed to explore ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced.
“I’m pleased to have been asked by SNBTS to be a member of a new sub-group which will look at how an individual risk assessment could be made a reality.”
Changes have also been proposed for people who have undergone acupuncture, piercing, tattooing, endoscopy, or have a history of non-prescribed injecting drug use.
These will have to be implemented at a later date as they will require changes in UK legislation, officials said.
Moira Carter, associate director of donor services and transport for the SNBTS, said: “We welcome the review by SaBTO and the recommendations; the updates for donor eligibility will allow more people the opportunity to give blood.
“The changes take into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, along with evidence supporting the reliability of the blood screening tests we use.”