Restrictions in different countries
The European Court of Justice ruled that EU governments may ban gay men from ever donating blood, but only under strict conditions.
The ruling was closely watched by activists and by governments that have lifetime bans on homosexual male blood donors, including the United States.
Most such bans were imposed early in the AIDS crisis, because sexually active gay men are more likely than other groups to contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But activists and some medical groups say a lifetime ban is no longer justified, given advances in HIV testing. See more recent data about the ban “Why Most Gay Men Still Aren’t Allowed to Donate Blood” (1.12.2916).
Frenchman Geoffrey Leger had protested France’s ban, and his complaint reached the Luxembourg-based EU court. The court found that France’s law is “liable to discriminate against male homosexuals on the basis of sexual orientation,” which is against EU policy.
But it said lifetime bans may be justified if a donor presents a high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases and there is no other method to protect blood recipients. It returned the case to the original French court that handled Leger’s case for further study. See: “Alarming statistics on the prevalence of these infections among homosexuals people” Science 6.12.2016.
Ahead of the ruling, France’s government had already started moving toward relaxing the ban. French Health Minister Marisol Touraine said that discriminating against donors based on their sexual orientation is “unacceptable.” But even so, the measure is being applied.
French officials are considering a rule that limits the ban to anyone who has had risky sexual activity in the past year, instead of a lifetime ban.
Canadian Blood Services lifted its lifetime donation ban in 2013, stating that a gay man may donate blood if he has been abstinent for five years.
Germany currently prohibits blood donations from any group of people who are considered to have a “significantly increased risk of transmission” of diseases through their blood, including gay men, heterosexuals with large numbers of sexual partners, and both male and female prostitutes.
However, two government advisory health agencies and others are currently re-evaluating the guidance to see if there is a way to prohibit individuals seen as particularly high risks, rather than have a blanket restriction on categories of people as they do currently.
Belgium and Netherlands
Belgium and the Netherlands currently have lifetime bans on gay men blood donors and are both in the process of seeing how this could be changed.
Several European countries have dropped their lifetime bans in favour of shorter-term restrictions.
Australia abandoned its lifetime ban to a one-year after the last homosexual relation, more than a decade ago. Recently published studies showed no change in the safety of the blood supply after making the switch. (Wed., April 29, 2015)