70,000 new donors are needed in France each year. (Getty Images)
France has reduced the 12-month deferral period on blood donation for men who have sex with men, which blood equality advocates argued was “discriminatory.”
On Wednesday (July 17), it was announced this would be reduced to four months for men who have sex with men, provided they abstain from sex or are in a monogamous relationship.
EFS reported the French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn’s decision to change the law was based on “scientific, objective and independent evidence,” including a study of 10,000 blood donors.
The new policy will take effect on February 1 next year, with the aim of aligning the heterosexual and homosexual blood donation policies by 2022.
Blood donation bans “reinforce negative stereotypes”
The fears of gay and bisexual men donating blood originated during the HIV/AIDS crisis, but today’s advanced blood screening technology means it is much easier to test for HIV, making bans redundant.
In addition to this, the US Blood Equality initiative says bans “reinforce negative stereotypes about gay and bisexual people — particularly that AIDS and HIV is a ‘gay disease.’”
The lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood was overturned in France in 2016 after studies found no justifiable evidence for the residual risk of HIV transmission by men. Following this, men had to abstain from sex with men for a full year before they could be cleared to donate.
But France has now reconsidered its selection criteria for blood donors, as an average of 170,000 new donors need to to be recruited each year to maintain a level of 10,000 donations per day throughout the country.
“This decision is a first step,” said Buzyn. The target is “the eventual alignment of criteria for all donors, the disappearance of the reference to sexual orientation in favour of the search for individual risk behaviour.”
But the Ministry of Health also added: “Giving blood is not a right, but one citizen’s gesture towards the other, which requires respecting the conditions of the gift for its safety.”