The Restrictions on Gay Men to Donate Blood

Recently, Canada permanently lifted its ban on homosexual men donating blood. The policy, lauded as a ‘significant milestone’ move, aims to erase blood donation discrepancies directed towards gay or bisexual men. In certain countries like America, men having sexual intercourse with other men can only donate blood after having three-month abstinence from sex. This deferral period spans from 3 months to 5 years or a permanent blanket ban in some countries.

The prohibition was introduced in the U.S. during the surge of AIDS in the early 1980s. The lack of ‘effective screening methods, a poor understanding of potential risk factors, and heterosexist perceptions’ led to the implementation of the permanent ban. The policy was revoked in 2015, adding a 12-month abstinence period from sexual intercourse with another man.

Many nations are gradually revoking the restriction which LGBTQ+ activists assert is discriminatory toward a particular sexual orientation. Lifting the ban means donors would be screened based on higher-risk sexual activities (anal sex, copulation with multiple people) and not their sexual orientation. It is made possible with technological advancements in the field of medicine that can ensure a safe blood supply.

“To achieve the highest level of safety, Canadian Blood Services uses a standardized questionnaire to screen potential donors, as well as blood tests on each donation. Layering donor screening with blood testing has been successful to ensure the blood supply in Canada is safe and sustainable. This approach is used by blood systems internationally,” reads the statement by Canadian Blood Services.

The policy will come into effect in Canada from 30 September 2022.

Calls to Revoke the Deferral Period in America

After Canada’s policy update, LGBTQ+ advocates and members of the congress are further pushing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to annul the current three-month deferral. America faced the “worst blood shortage in more than a decade” amidst the pandemic. Advocates then called to revoke the waiting period on men having sex with men (MSM) claiming it to be ‘unnecessarily obstructive to the nation’s crucial blood supply’.

Representational Image Via Unsplash.

While MSM automatically follows the abstinence policy, people who frequently indulge in sexual activities with multiple people or multiple genders are excluded. Advocates call for a revised screening process based on risky sexual behavior and not their orientation. 

“Any policy that continues to categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and wrong. Given advances in blood screening and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an entire group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment,” read a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and FDA acting Commissioner signed by 22 U.S. Senators.

Although a blanket ban was imposed by several nations during the AIDS epidemic, many countries have upended their restrictions for better inclusion in recent years. The UK, France, Greece, Bhutan, Chile, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine, Hungary are some of the countries with no deferral waiting periods for gay or bisexual blood donors.

 

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Feature Image Via Unsplash.

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