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France Just Lifted Homophobic Blood Ban on Men Who Have Sex With Men

Man who has just donated blood

The country follows Italy, Hungary, Brazil, and several others that have also done away with outdated laws that prohibit men who have sex with men from donating blood.

France has lifted its ban on queer men giving blood, the French government announced Tuesday. The regulation has been in place since the early days of the HIV epidemic.

On Twitter, France's Health Minister Olivier Vera said that references to sexual orientation will be removed from blood donation questionnaires starting in March, putting "an end to an inequality that was no longer justified."

The sanction began in 1983, and was lifted, with a caveat, in July 2016. Potential donors were still required to be sexually abstinent before donating. That period of abstinence was originally set at one year before being lowered to four months in 2019.

Now potential blood donors will have to report if they are undergoing treatments related to HIV prevention. They will also be asked about their recent sexual activity and drug use. However, questions will no longer include asking potential donors about their sexual orientation, the outlet reports.

France follows Italy, Hungary, Brazil, Spain, and several other countries that have all lifted their bans.

The L'Interassociative lesbienne, gaie, bi et trans, one of France's leading LGBTQ organizations, praised the removal of the ban.

"Imposing a four-month period of abstinence on homosexuals wishing to donate blood is totally absurd and has always been seen as a form of discrimination, especially when we know that donations are in short supply," the organization's spokesperson Matthieu Gatipon-Bachette told Le Parisien.

"There must obviously be a health safety framework to respect, but it must not be based on the sexual orientation of the donor," he continued.

"The extreme vigilance of the health authorities allows for a change in the conditions of access to blood donation," said Jerome Salomon, France's Director generale de la sante, one of the Directorate-General of the French Ministry of Health departments. He added that the risk of transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by transfusion "has been falling steadily for decades."

Despite this fact, many countries continue to have laws that prohibit donations of blood by gay or bisexual men. In the United States, for example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enforces a three-month deferral period for men who have sex with men and women who have sex with queer men.

LGBTQ+ rights activists have called for the policy in the U.S. to be changed for years.

"It does not treat persons with the same risks in a similar way," the Human Rights Campaign has stated. "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."

The organization added that a man, for example, who has had protected oral sex with another man once in three months is 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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