Date Published: February 2, 2017
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Itzchak Levy, Liraz Olmer, Yuval Livnat, Adir Yanko, Eilat Shinar, Mark A Wainberg.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are permanently deferred from donating blood in Israel. Pressure to change this policy exists, despite data showing higher prevalence and incidence of HIV in MSM. A survey was conducted to evaluate current knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and compliance if deferral was changed.
Anonymous survey was published in a gay-oriented website, collecting demographic information, history of blood donation, attitudes, knowledge and compliance with permanent versus temporary deferral. Responses were analyzed given 1 point for every “yes” response (0–7 points). Student’s t-test was applied to compare differences between continuous variables. Correlations were described with the Pearson correlation coefficient.
Responses from 492 MSM were analyzed. Average age was 31±9 years. 76% donated blood at least once, mostly for social solidarity (score of 3.2 on 1–5 scale). Tests seeking or protest scores were 1.7 and 1.6, respectively. 66% were unaware of the higher risk of HIV transmission by MSM, or the potential to infect 3 recipients. Knowledge regarding HIV transmission by blood positively correlated with knowledge regarding other routes of HIV transmission (r = 0.11; p = 0.03), age (r = 0.10; p = 0.04), and higher rate of non-compliance with the current deferral policy (OR = 1.9; p = 0.02). Activism for LGBT rights was associated with lower risk for non-adherence (OR = 0.5; p = 0.03). If temporary deferral is introduced 66% will comply with the new policy, but 23% will continue to donate as long as MSM deferral policy is in place.
A high proportion of MSM do not comply with the current lifetime deferral. This may partially change if temporary deferral is introduced.
Since the very early days of the HIV epidemic the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) followed international regulatory authorities introducing permanent deferral of men who had sex with men (MSM) since 1977 from donating blood [1–3].
A 21-questions anonymous survey was published in a gay-oriented website (http://dating.atraf.co.il) from 19 May 2014 to 19 June 2014, asking respondents for data regarding demographic information, history of blood donation in Israel, knowledge, and attitudes towards permanent versus temporary deferral of MSM. Inclusion criteria were being a male older than 18 years of age, MSM orientation and residing in Israel. HIV-positive participants were excluded from analysis. Participants were asked to suggest how the current deferral policy should be modified and if their compliance will be different upon changing the policy. Participants were requested to respond only once as a means of reducing sampling bias. No financial incentive was offered.
As part of the decision-making process to change the current national policy of permanent deferral from blood donation of men who were engaged in sex with other men (MSM) since 1977, a close collaboration was created among all the stakeholders involved in HIV prevention in the country, including the performance of an on-line survey, with the intention to learn more on attitudes, perceptions, knowledge and possible compliance among MSM. The survey revealed that 76% of MSM who responded to the questionnaire donated blood at least once, and did not consider to refrain or to use the self-deferral option.