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Israel Allows Queer Men to Give Blood, U.S. Keeps Antigay Policy

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The current policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration assumes the sex lives of gay and bisexual men are inherently riskier than others.

The Israeli health minister announced today that the nation will end its ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

The nation will follow the recommendations of many health professionals and change its current one-year ban on donations from sexually active gay and bi men and initiate a policy that looks at individual risk, regardless of the gender of sexual partners. All potential Israeli donors will be asked if they engage in "high-risk sex" with new or multiple partners, and those who do will be barred from donating for three months. The policy goes into effect in October, according to Haaretz.

The United States currently requires men who have sex with men to wait three months from their last same-sex encounter to donate blood. Many are calling for the U.S. to follow the lead of nations like Israel and disqualify individual behavior rather than having a blanket ban on sexually active gay and bi men.

Until December 2015, the U.S. had a lifetime ban on blood donations from any man who had sex with another man since 1977, fearing they were at high risk for HIV and could taint the blood supply. Amid accusations that the ban was no longer scientifically sound and smacked of homophobia by labeling queer men as inherently risky, the Food and Drug Administration changed its policy to one that made donations possible after individuals abstained from gay sex for a year. Then, in April 2020, with blood donations lagging amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA shortened the gay sex deferral window to three months.

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign want the FDA to end the antigay, anti-bi policy for good. "Human Rights Campaign believes that the updated policy, like its precursors, does not treat persons with like risks in a similar way," the organization states on its website. "It also believes that donors are deferred based on their membership in a group -- in this case, all men who have sex with men -- rather than engagement in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex. For example, a man who has had protected oral sex with another man once in the 3 months currently barred from donating blood. Yet a woman who has had unprotected sex with multiple partners over the same time frame with no knowledge of their personal histories remains in the donor pool."

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