In a world in which HIV is no longer a certain death sentence or a crisis, many countries are relaxing the blood donation bans put in place to prevent gay men from donating potentially infected bodily fluids. France is the latest nation to announce that it will allow homosexuals to donate blood more freely, joining countries such as Japan and Italy.
Calling the ban a “discrimination” and a “taboo,” the country’s health minister, Marisol Touraine, told the media that the ban will be lifted next year, permitting gay and bisexual men to perform a generous act that would help others. But while this is a step forward, The New York Times reports that leaders of gay advocacy groups are still unhappy with restrictions that will be placed on men who have sex with men, seeing them as unfair and outdated.
Once donating blood becomes legal for gay and bi men next spring, they’ll still have to jump through a few hurdles before saving lives (or “alleviating the blood deficit,” as we were instructed to phrase it when I worked at a blood center):
...men who have not been sexually active with other men in the preceding 12 months will be able to donate blood. Gay men who have had only one partner for the preceding four months, or who have not been sexually active, will be able to donate blood plasma.
This is an absolute improvement on the current ban, but it’s still true that fewer restrictions exist for heterosexuals, who may engage in behaviors that can be just as risky, sometimes riskier. Even though the restrictions are being relaxed, they’re still based on sexual orientation and not the kind of sex one engages in.
The deferral periods will reportedly be lessened for gay and bi men if the new changes don’t prove to endanger the public, but activists are concerned that this will take longer than expected. In addition, advocates say that the amount of time between sexual contact and donation is far too long, and still discriminatory:
The French gay advocacy group SOS Homophobie said in a statement on Wednesday that it “welcomed” the end of the ban in France, but that it “very strongly regretted the continuation of discriminations based on sexual orientation.” It called instead for a “four-month deferral period for everybody, and only in cases where risks have been taken.”
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