On Tuesday, January 11, government officials in France announced that its blood donation ban for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (gbMSM) will be lifted this year. This puts an end to restrictions that have existed since 1983, as the HIV/AIDS pandemic was unfolding.
France’s Minister of Solidarity and Health took to social media to announce the news, tweeting: “From March 16, all French people, whatever their sexual orientation, will be able to donate blood! We are ending an inequality that was no longer justified.”
Dès le 16 mars, tous les français, quelles que soient leurs orientations sexuelles, pourront donner leur sang !
Nous mettons fin à une inégalité qui n’était plus justifiée. #DonDeSang? pic.twitter.com/wjnd1ylqt1
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) January 11, 2022
In 2016, the country loosened its blood ban restrictions allowing gbMSM to donate as long as they had undergone a period of abstinence beforehand. Initially, they required the donor to be abstinent for a year, but this was lessened to four months in 2019.
From March, however, references to sexual orientation will no longer be included in the blood donation questionnaire. Instead, prospective donors will have to declare whether or not they are undergoing preventative treatment for HIV, and they will also be asked about recent sexual activity and drug use.
Matthieu Gatipon-Bachette of L’Interassociative lesbienne, gaie, bi et trans, a leading LGBTQ+ rights group in France, commented on the lifting of the blood ban, saying: “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.”
He continued in his statement to Le Parisien saying, “There must obviously be a health safety framework to respect, but it must not be based on the sexual orientation of the donor.”
The move by the French government came on the same day that Greece announced it was similarly removing its ban on gbMSM donating blood. The Republic of Ireland seems set to follow, with reports stating that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will enact the change in the coming months.
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