Gay men will be able to give blood from today as government restrictions are officially lifted, the Department of Health said.
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 (Sabto), men who have not had homosexual sex within a year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria.
Men who have had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will still not be eligible to donate blood, the DoH said.
They said this was to reduce the risk of infections being missed by testing and then being passed on to a patient.
Sabto’s advisory panel, comprising leading experts and patient groups, carried out its review based on the latest available evidence and found it could no longer support the permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men.
They considered the risk of infection being transmitted in blood, attitudes of potential donors in complying with the selection criteria and improvements in testing of donated blood.
Dr Lorna Williamson, NHS Blood and Transplant’s medical and research director, said: “Our priority as a blood service is to provide a safe and sufficient supply of blood for patients.
“This change gives us an opportunity to broaden our donor acceptance on the basis of the latest scientific evidence.
“The Sabto review concluded that the safety of the blood supply would not be affected by the change and we would like to reassure patients receiving transfusions that the blood supply is as safe as it reasonably can be and amongst the safest in the world.
“There has been no documented transmission of a blood-borne virus in the UK since 2005, with no HIV transmission since 2002.”
The move will be implemented in England, Scotland and Wales.