France has given a green light for men who have sex with men to donate blood, but there is a deferral period requirement in place.
Gay and bisexual men in France can now give blood to save lives — but only if they have not had sex for the past 12 months.
For plasma donation, there is a short deferral period of four months.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine first promised to overturn the lifetime ban last November, saying that she would to end the ‘taboo and discrimination.’
‘Donating blood is an act of generosity, of citizenship, which shouldn’t be conditional upon a [person’s] sexual orientation,’ she had said.
The 30-year-old gay blood ban was implemented in the country at the height of the 80s AIDS crisis
Subsequently, studies have shown no justifiable evidence to uphold the discriminatory regulation.
France’s ban on lesbians donating blood was lifted in 2002, while same-sex marriage was legalised in the country in 2013.
From Monday onwards, men who have abstained from sexual activities with other men for the past 12 months will be allowed to donate blood.
Speaking to France 24, Sophie Aujean, senior policy officer at the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), said: ‘This is a good sign, which shows that men who have sex with other men are becoming less stigmatised … It’s helping them move towards a situation that is more equal.’
However, Aujean added that the 12-month deferral period is ‘unfair.’
‘A year is a very long time, and will probably mean that a lot of men who have sex with other men will opt out of donating blood because of it. Four months would be more reasonable,’ she said.
Vice-president of French rights group SOS Homophobia, Virginie Combe, also agreed that the year-long celibacy requirement is too much.
‘There is no way to say that a married and faithful homosexual couple is more at risk than a married and faithful heterosexual couple,’ she argued.
Touraine revealed that the lifting of the ban will take place in stages so that the government can study if and how the level of risk changes, reports Standard.
The deferral period may be cut short if studies confirm that it is unnecessary.
In the UK, ban on gay blood was lifted in 2011, though there is also the 12-month abstinence requirement in place.
At the moment, Germany ministers are working to scrap the country’s regulation that bars all gay and bisexual men from donating blood.