In Israel next month, a Health Ministry advisory committee on transfusion medicine will consider whether to amend the clause that forbids gay men donating blood, following a similar change here in Britain.
If the clause is changed, any man who last had same-sex intercourse 10 or more years ago will be able to donate blood. Currently, anyone wishing to donate blood must fill out a comprehensive questionnaire, which also lists, in red, a list of disqualifications.
These include various diseases, including having or being exposed to “mad cow disease”, various nerve disorders, drug use, and a positive HIV test. The clause disqualifying gay men says: “Having had male homosexual relations since 1977” – the year AIDS was first diagnosed.
Both Magen David Adom’s National Blood Bank (MDA) and the Health Ministry say the clause is similar to ones found in many countries worldwide.
Discussions over the subject go back at least to 2004, when it was suggested the clause on the blood donation form would be rewritten to disqualify anyone who had engaged in unprotected same-sex intercourse during the previous six months (six months being the window of time during which HIV antibodies begin showing up in someone infected with AIDS via sex). However, nothing arose from this discussion, and the clause remained.
Last week, Israel’s Labour chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich, alongside the party’s gay members, wrote to MDA’S CEO Eli Bin and to Health Ministry director general, Doctor Roni Gamzu, asking that the clause be revoked.
Ms Yachimovich wrote: “The question about sex between men, without asking the donor whether he had had unprotected sex, is a serious deficiency.
“Under such circumstances [unprotected sex], there is a significant risk of AIDS infection even among heterosexuals, yet the questionnaire doesn’t address this and creates the mistaken and dangerous impression that AIDS is a ‘homosexual disease.'”