Switzerland removes restrictions for gay and bisexual men donating blood

“The main feeling we have is ‘finally.’ Finally we can take part in society this way.”

Switzerland has removed the ban on gbMSM donating blood. The image shows a Swiss flag waving and tourists admire the peaks of Monch and Jungfrau mountains on a Mannlichen viewpoint, Bernese Oberland Switzerland
Image: Shutterstock: kavalenkava

On November 1, Switzerland implemented new criteria for blood donation that now allows gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) to participate in donating blood under the same rules as heterosexual individuals. 

The updated criteria require that all potential donors, regardless of sexual orientation, undergo a four-month waiting period following their last sexual encounter with a new partner before donating blood. Additionally, donors will have to wait 12 months to donate if they have had sexual contact with more than two partners in the last four months. 

Prior to these changes, the Swiss government was continuing to operate under a ban on gbMSM donating blood that has been in place since the early 1980s. In 2017 the criteria for gbMSM donating blood was updated, but still required potential donors to abstain from sex for a full 12 months before donating. 

The rules were updated again just yesterday after Swiss Transfusion SRC (Swiss Red Cross) pushed for medical authorities to revise their criteria for risk assessments surrounding sexual behaviours. 

The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) later agreed to the changes proposed by Swiss Transfusion SRC. 

“The new ineligibility criteria define even more precisely that it is indeed risky behaviour, and not a given sexual orientation, that underpins ineligibility,” SwissMedic said in a statement to Reuters.

“This is something we support.”

LGBTQ+ rights organisations in Switzerland, such as Pink Cross, have championed the decision to update the criteria around blood donation, with spokesperson Gaé Colussi telling Reuters, “The main feeling we have is ‘finally’. Finally we can take part in society this way.”

Updated regulations on gay and bisexual men donating blood have been more and more common in recent years. For example, in Ireland, a November 2022 update from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service removed sexuality-based restrictions, instead opting to evaluate potential donors on a person-by-person basis.

Under the new process, the guidelines are the same for heterosexual and LGBTQ+ people. While some social behaviours, such as engaging in chemsex or having anal sex with new or multiple partners, still warrant restrictions, it is no longer specific to gbMSM or trans folk.

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