The New Zealand Blood Service has confirmed that it is currently reassessing its contentious regulations that have seen the majority of gay and bisexual men (MSM) banned from donating blood.

The rule has been widely criticised as outdated and discriminatory, prohibits gay and bisexual men (or Men who have sex with men – MSM) from donating blood unless they have not engaged in sexual activity for a minimum of three months, effectively excluding those in committed relationships from contributing.

The campaign to abolish this restriction has been a prolonged struggle, with numerous nations already having eliminated similar prohibitions.


Warren Dempsey-Coy, who previously donated his rare O-negative blood, has been advocating for reform since the ban was enforced during the HIV epidemic of the 1980s. He expressed frustration with the ongoing discrimination, highlighting the absurdity of disqualifying gay men in stable, monogamous partnerships from donating blood.

The original intention behind the ban was to mitigate the risk of HIV transmission through blood donations. However, the situation concerning HIV has significantly improved, with recent years witnessing the lowest incidence of new cases in two decades, according to Joe Rich, CEO of Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.

Other countries, including England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, and the United States, have moved away from such bans, but New Zealand has yet to follow suit. The Blood Service initiated a study in April of the previous year to gather local HIV statistics to inform their policy review. The study, named SPOTS and led by Peter Saxton, faced delays due to unforeseen challenges, including the need to adapt to an online format because of the COVID pandemic.

The findings from the SPOTS study will play a crucial role in the Blood Service’s decision-making process. Medsafe will make the final determination regarding the policy.