Historic day for Austria as LGBTQ+ blood donation ban comes to an end

The new regulations will come into effect in autumn and will standardise the requirements of all Austrian donors, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Test tubes of blood on a medical blue cloth.
Image: Via Pexels

News broke on Friday, May 20, that Austria is putting an end to restrictions regarding LGBTQ+ individuals who wish to donate blood.

“We are putting an end to discrimination from another age,” said the Green Party Health Minister, Johannes Rauch, in a statement that revealed the forthcoming regulations. “If someone wants to help by donating, there is no reason why they should be prevented from doing so because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Until now, Austria had harsh regulations in place that fully prevented Transgender and non-binary individuals from donating blood, while GBMSM were required to wait 12 months after intercourse before making a donation.

The new regulations, however, put everyone on equal footing. Going forward, heterosexual and cisgender people, as well as LGBTQ+ folks, will only be able to donate if it has been longer than three months since they’ve last had intercourse. These changes will be enacted sometime in autumn, although as of yet there is no exact date. This will be reviewed in two years to assess if further action or updates are required.

“Together with many other organisations, we have long and very clearly drawn attention to the fact that when donating blood, the focus must be on individual risk behaviour on the part of the donor and not on the fact that, as has been the case up to now, groups are excluded because of their sexual orientation or identity,” said Managing Director of AIDS-Hilfe Wien, Andrea Brunner. “If this succeeds now with the regulation, it will be an important step.”

Although this decision marks great strides for the LGBTQ+ community in Austria, they are not the first country to lift similar blood donation laws. Canada, France and Greece have all lifted bans on GBMSM donors this year and in Ireland, while not yet fully ban-free, we have seen a reduction in the wait time for gay and bisexual men to donate blood after sexual contact. Our waiting period now sits at four months as opposed to the previous 12-month wait.

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