All Rights reserved
Israel will soon lift its ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.
The country's ministry of Health declared Wednesday that it would allow gay and bi male donors, regardless of the timing of their last sexual encounter.
The move marks a turn-around for the ministry, which earlier this month proposed a one-year period of abstinence for MSM looking to donate blood -- a controversial rule also followed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
However, AIDS and LGBT groups in Israel contested the waiting period, calling it "irrelevant and unrealistic," reports the Times of Israel.
In place of forced abstinence, Magen David Adom, the country's blood bank service, proposed a "double testing" system. Developed by Dr. Eilat Shinar, MDA's director of blood services, this system screens the donation twice for HIV -- first at the time of donation, and second at the time of infusion. Inbetween, the blood will be stored for a four-month period in a freezer.
The country's ministry of Health then approved the system for a two-year trial period.
"Starting very soon, all members of the population will be able to enlist to save lives regardless of their sexual orientation," stated Eli Bin, MDA"s director. "Donation of blood is a right and duty common to all citizens of Israel."
The move was hailed as "an important and historic step toward equality for the gay community" by politician Meirav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), the head of the Kulanu party's LGBT caucus.
In the wake of the AIDS crisis, the United States banned donations from gay and bi men until 2015. The effectiveness of its current policy, which mandates a 12-month abstinence period, is under review, and has been criticized by activists as discriminatory.