Israel is set to allow bisexual and gay men to donate blood – regardless of when they last had sex.
The initiative, which has been hailed as an “important step towards equality” by LGBT activists in the country, will start as a pilot programme in April.
The scheme, which was approved by the Health Ministry yesterday, will be launched by Magen David Adom (MDA) – the Israeli equivalent of The Red Cross.
When bi and gay men donate their blood, MDA will separate the plasma, freeze it and keep it in quarantine for four months.
The donor will then need to come back four months later for a second donation.
As long as all tests on the new donation come back negative for infectious diseases, the first blood donation will be approved for general use.
The plan has been made possible by substantially more advanced tests which screen for HIV and can show an infection soon after it happens, according to reports.
In June, Israel permitted men who have sex with men to give blood for the first time, providing that they had not had sex within the last 12 months.
This new step puts Israel ahead of the US in this field, as the American Red Cross follows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, which still include a 12-month abstinence period.
The deferral period was reduced from 12 months to 12 weeks.
The US has made no such move, leading people finding out about the rule for the first time to air their fury following the Las Vegas mass shooting in October.
Israeli member of Parliament Meirav Ben-Ari worked with MDA to create the new pilot scheme.
She said: “I am happy to take part in the solution of the issue of blood donation from the LGBT community,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
“For years, there was a frustrating situation in which LGBTs could not donate blood, and when they did, they had to lie about their sexual orientation.
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“Today, this is an important historic step toward equality, and I have had the opportunity to assist in finding the solution.
“I commend Eli Bin and the ministry for their important decision. This is great news for the community that will enlarge the blood bank and help save lives in Israel.
“I will continue to operate towards assisting the community in any field necessary.”
MDA blood services director Professor Eilat Shinar said that the programme “enables a bridge between protecting the safety of blood units and the willingness of the LGBT community to take part in saving lives.”
Chen Ariely, chairman of the Israel LGBT Task Force, said: “The constant refusal to receive blood donations from male members of the LGBT community, and their requirement to lie, was an insult, but it has come to end.
“More than 1,500 members of the community took part in discussing a temporary solution and expressed support, until the integration of a component that would enable everybody to donate blood.
“This initiative positions Israel as one of the most advanced countries in the world in this field and we commend this important step toward equality.”