PloS one

Is having sex with other men a risk factor for transfusion-transmissible infections in male blood donors in Western countries? A systematic review.

PMID 25875812


Although increased prevalence of transfusion transmissible infections (TTI) among "men who have sex with men" (MSM) has been well documented, the exclusion of MSM as blood donors is contested. The aim of this systematic review is to find studies that describe the risk of TTI in MSM blood donors. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cinahl, and Web of Science, and used GRADE for determining evidence quality. We included studies comparing MSM and non-MSM blood donors (or people eligible to give blood), living in areas most relevant for our Blood Service. Out of 18 987 articles, 14 observational studies were included. Two studies directly compared MSM with non-MSM donors showing that MSM donors have a statistically significant higher risk of HIV-1 infections. In one of these studies it was shown that this was related to recent (< 12 months) MSM contact. In two additional studies no evidence was shown in favour of a certain deferral period for MSM. Ten studies, applying permanent deferral for MSM, compared infected versus non-infected donors. One study found that MSM is a statistically significant risk factor for HIV-1 infection in blood donors. For other TTI such as HBV or HCV, an increased risk of infection could not be demonstrated, because the precision of the results was affected by the low numbers of donors with MSM as risk factor, or because of risk of bias in the included studies. All studies included low level evidence, because of risk of bias and imprecision of the results. High-quality studies investigating the risk of TTI in MSM who donate blood are scarce. The available evidence suggests a link between MSM blood donors and HIV-1 infection, but is too limited to be able to unambiguously/clearly recommend a certain deferral policy.