In 2015, CEBaP published a systematic review that included 14 papers on the risk of transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs) in male blood donors who had sex with another man (MSM) or after easing the MSM deferral period.
In 2022, we updated the review by re-searching five databases for studies comparing MSM versus non-MSM donors, MSM deferral periods, or infected versus non-infected donors in Western countries. Based on 25 identified observational studies, including the previously identified 14 studies, we formulated the following conclusions:
(1) There may be an increased risk for overall TTIs (and HIV specifically) in MSM donors, but the evidence is very uncertain.
(2) Easing the MSM deferral period to 1 year may have little to no effect on TTI risk. However, based on observational studies, it is difficult to draw solid conclusions regarding the impact of further easing the MSM deferral to 3 months or risk-based, given that prevalence of infections is very low in blood donors.
(3) There is limited research on the impact of risk-based deferral policies, as well as on differential risk behaviour among MSM (eligible) donors.
Our systematic review focused on observed data on TTI risk in MSM blood donors. When informing policy, these results should be supplemented with other available data on compliance with the donor questionnaire, donor comfort, and modelling studies. Finally, other criteria, such as feasibility and cost-effectiveness of alternative deferral periods, should be considered when making practical recommendations.
The paper is published in Vox Sanguinis.