France ends lifetime ban on gay blood donations
France has this week finally lifted its permanent ban on men who have sex with men donating blood.
The move was first announced by the Hollande government in November, when health minister Marisol Touraine promising to tackle “a taboo and discrimination” after studies found no justifiable evidence for the lifetime ban, which was put in place at the height of the AIDS crisis.
He affirmed that “no blood donors can be refused based on their sexual orientation”.
Touraine said lifting ban will proceed in stages – to allow the government to study whether and how the risks change.
Under the refined system that came into effect this week, a 12-month deferral period will remain in place for blood donations, and a four-month deferral period for plasma donations, meaning that gay and bisexual men must abstain from sex if they wish to donate.
Sophie Aujean of ILGA-Europe told France 24: “This is a good sign, which shows that men who have sex with other men are becoming less stigmatised.
“A year is a very long time, and will probably mean that a lot of men who have sex with other men will opt out of donating blood because of it.
“Four months would be more reasonable.”
At present in England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men (MSM) are banned from giving blood unless they abstain from sex for 12 months.
The ban also affects many women who are married to bisexual men – as the ban also prevents women who have slept with MSM from giving blood.
Until 2011, MSM were permanently banned from giving blood across the UK – but the system was changed in England, Scotland and Wales.
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In Northern Ireland, MSM remained banned for life from giving blood until this year as the DUP blocked all progress. However, after the party was moved out of the Health brief, reforms were announced to bring Northern Ireland in line with the UK.
Last year it was announced that the number of people donating blood has fallen 40% in a decade, and the blood donation service could soon be in crisis.
A growing number of MPs from across the political spectrum support a review of the ban.
The news comes after the Netherlands also recently ended their liftime blood ban on gay and bisexual men.
However – similar to the UK – the men must have not had any male partners for 12 months before donating to be considered acceptable donors.