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Hungary drops the ban on gay and bi men giving blood

Hungary drops the ban on gay and bi men giving blood

  • Even Hungary thinks the ban is discriminatory.
Budapest Pride 2017

Hungary, one of Europe’s least LGBT+ supportive countries, has dropped the ban on gay and bi men giving blood.

Now both gay and bisexual men may donate blood if their sexual behavior is not otherwise considered risky. And the Hungarian National Blood Transfusion Service says it has chosen to ‘eliminate’ the ‘discrimination’.

The surprise change in policy comes as Hungary’s government abuses the coronavirus pandemic to stop trans people changing gender.

The new blood donation policy has just come to light after the National Blood Transfusion Service published it in mid-April. Furthermore, in their statement they backdated the policy saying it started on 1 January 2020.

It is not, therefore, clear if the change in heart was due to fears around coronavirus. Both the US and Australia have dialled down their gay blood bans amid falling donations during the pandemic.

In their statement the National Blood Transfusion Service says:

‘All discrimination based on the gender of the participants in the assessment of sexual relationships that are risky for transmission is eliminated.’

‘Fighting for years’

The Háttér Society, the largest and oldest LGBT+ organization in Hungary, welcomed the news.

The campaigners point out that gay male sex is not necessarily more risky for HIV. In a statement they said:

‘The Háttér Society has been fighting for years to stop the stigmatization and complete exclusion of a group of people [men who have sex with men] from blood donation.

‘A gay couple in a monogamous relationship, especially if they protect themselves  against HIV by condoms or PrEP, is not more at risk than a heterosexual couple.

‘The risk of transmission of non-penetrative sexual encounters between men is much lower than that of a heterosexual contact involving vaginal penetration.’

Hungary’s government currently attacking trans rights

Hungary offers LGBT+ people some rights and protections. Gay sex is legal, and there are anti-discrimination laws in place.

However the constitution bans same-sex marriage, only allowing registered partnerships. Meanwhile joint adoption is also banned.

Furthermore, right now the UN and European politicians are pressuring Hungary to drop a new law that will make it impossible for trans people to legally change gender. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has used emergency coronavirus pandemic powers to push the change.

The country regularly attacks LGBT+ rights both on a European level and in day-to-day life.

For example, in 2018, it joined Poland in vetoing the inclusion of LGBT+ rights in a European statement.

Meanwhile the Hungary Opera cancelled the Billy Elliot musical in the same year after a newspaper mounted a homophobic campaign.

Gay blood bans around the world

Multiple countries introduced bans on gay and bi men giving blood at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Since then, effective treatment, testing and PrEP have dramatically reduced the risk. Meanwhile, blood banks screen blood for HIV alongside other tests.

At the moment countries including Spain, South Africa, Italy, Russia and Mexico allow gay and bi men to donate blood without a waiting period.

Despite this countries including Austria, Malaysia and Greece still impose a lifetime ban on gay and bi men’s blood.

And some otherwise fairly LGBT+ friendly countries still have a one-year wait period after sex for gay and bi men. They include Belgium, Ireland and Malta.

Meanwhile some other countries ask for a three month wait after sex. They include the UK, Canada. Both the USA and Australia have joined this group this year.

And campaigners are still fighting for the US and Australia to drop the bans altogether and screen on the basis of risk, not sexuality.

The urgency is even greater as plasma from people who have recovered from coronavirus may be effective in treating people suffering with COVID-19. However, as plasma is a blood product it is covered by the same bans and restrictions.