• blood donation;
  • donor selection;
  • HIV risk;
  • men who have sex with men

Background and Objectives  One component of the rationale for lifetime exclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) from blood donation in the UK is the probable reduction in the risk of transfusion-transmitted HIV; this exclusion has recently been questioned.

Materials and Methods  Data about HIV in blood donors and MSM were analysed to estimate the risk of infectious donations entering the blood supply under different scenarios of donor selection criteria (and donor compliance) for MSM and a heterosexual group with increased risk of HIV.

Results  In 2005–2007, a change from lifetime exclusion of MSM to 5-year deferral or no deferral increased the point estimate of HIV risk by between 0·4% and 7·4% depending on compliance with the deferral (range −4% to 15%) and 26·5% (range 18% to 43%) respectively. A change from a 12-month deferral of the high-risk heterosexual group to lifetime exclusion reduced the estimated risk by about 7·2% (range 6% to 9%). Each point estimate was within the probable range of risk under the current criteria.

Conclusion  If prevalence is the only factor affected by a reduced deferral, then the increased risk of HIV is probably negligible. However, the impact of a change depends on compliance; if this stays the same or worsens, the risk is expected to increase because of more incident infections in MSM who donate blood. The risk of transfusion-transmitted HIV could probably be reduced further by improving compliance with any exclusion, particularly after recent risk behaviours.