France has ended the 12 month blood donation restriction for men who have sex with men (MSM).
In 2016, France overturned a 30-year-ban on MSM donating blood. But it only allowed men to donate blood if they had abstained from sex for 12 months.
But on Wednesday morning (17 July), Health Minister Agnès Buzyn announced France would reduce the ‘deferral period’ down to four months. This would apply to MSM who had abstained from sex or were in a monogamous sexual relationship.
Buzyn said the decision to change the law was based on scientific, objective and independent evidence.
The changes will take effect from February 2020.
Blood equality and blood donation
Blood donation bans for MSM began around the world at the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
But blood equality advocates argue that outright bans and deferral periods are discriminatory. Advocates around the world argued that the same rules don’t apply to non-monogamous heterosexual people. Also, blood screening technology has advanced and can more effectively screen for HIV, therefore making bans redundant.
The US Blood Equality initiative says they ‘reinforce negative stereotypes about gay and bisexual people—particularly that AIDS and HIV is a “gay disease”.’
‘It supports the false perception that heterosexual people are at low risk for HIV infection, while allowing individuals who participate in high-risk behavior, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual, to donate blood. This doesn’t make sense,’ the groups said.
But HIV advocate, Nic Holas, believed that ending HIV would be the fastest way to end the MSM blood donation ban.
‘If HIV was no longer an issue, the blood deferral wouldn’t need to exist. That’s why I believe that ending HIV is the best way to achieve an end to the blood deferral,’ he told Gay Star News in June.