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France Liberalizes Blood Donation Policy for Gay Men

France Liberalizes Blood Donation Policy for Gay Men

blood donation

The nation is replacing its lifetime ban with a 12-month deferral, which may eventually go down to four months.

France is easing its ban on blood donation by gay men, with plans to make its policy it somewhat more liberal what is under consideration in the U.S.

Beginning in the spring, men who have not had sex with another man in the preceding 12 months will be able to donate blood, The New York Times reports. This is the same "deferral period" recently proposed in the U.S. as an alternative to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have ever had sex with another man; both France and the U.S. have had those policies since the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic began. Those who have been celibate for four months or have had only one partner in that time will be able to donate blood plasma only.

"About a year later, if studies show that the new policy has not increased health risks, the deferral period for gay men will gradually be brought in line with the deferral period for heterosexual donors," the Times reports. "In France, heterosexual donors may not donate blood if they have had more than one partner in the preceding four months."

"Giving one's blood is an act of generosity and of civic responsibility that cannot be conditioned by sexual orientation," said a statement issued Wednesday by Health Minister Marisol Touraine. "While respecting the absolute security of patients, it is a taboo, a discrimination that is being lifted today."

Some gay activists, however, said the 12-month deferral remains too restrictive, as HIV cannot elude detection for such a long period. The group SOS Homophobie proposed a "four-month deferral period for everybody, and only in cases where risks have been taken," according to the Times.

"What I don't understand is why we don't condition blood donation by high-risk behavior," added gay French politician Jean-Luc Romero-Michel in an interview with the Times. "It isn't being heterosexual that is a risk. It isn't being gay that is a risk. It is behaviors that are risky."

France follows the lead of the U.K. and the Netherlands in adopting the 12-month deferral for gay and bisexual men. Italy and Spain determine eligibility for blood donation on a case-by-case basis for people of all orientations, taking risk factors into account. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany maintain lifetime bans.

Outside Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have a 12-month deferral period for men who have sex with men, while Canada has a five-year one. Mexico bases eligibility on risk factors.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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