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Countries rethink LGBTQ+ blood donation restrictions

By Raymond Dai and Michelle Qiao Feb. 3, 2021

Evelyn Liu Art

In what some activists see as a long-overdue move, the U.K. announced in December 2020 that it would revise blood donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men. While the move will be implemented this upcoming summer, the restrictions—founded on concerns of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission—originally required gay and bisexual donors to abstain from sex for three months before donating blood.

Blood donation restrictions were originally imposed in the 1980s during the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic over fears of spreading HIV, a permanent disease that can be transmitted through sexual activity and bodily fluids such as blood.

However, instances of HIV have become rarer, and screening has drastically improved. Even before the most recent announcement, the U.K. lowered the abstention time frame for gay and bisexual men from one year to three months. These decisions come after The New York Times reported that the British National Health Service (NHS) needed more young men to donate blood in response to a gender disparity among donors. Furthermore, because of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of community blood drives were canceled, causing global blood supplies to run short. In the U.S alone, The New York Times found that the country was falling short by over one million blood donations.

“Other countries should follow the lead of the U.K. and lower the waiting time for bisexual and gay men because there are many who might be suffering from blood loss during the pandemic. With these restrictions lifted, it would be easier for patients in need of blood donations to receive the assistance they need to survive,” Freshman Hailey Tan said.

Some countries have followed suit in relaxing regulations. A group of over 500 doctors in the U.S. called for eliminating the three-month deferral period in the name of scientifically safe standards and promoting equity in blood donation. Consequently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a pilot study collaborating with LGBTQ+ community centers and three of the largest blood donation centers in the United States to examine the merits of loosening restrictions.

“As long as there is no medically valid reason to prevent members of the LGBTQ+ community from donating blood in these troubling times, countries like France, the U.S. and Germany should lower restrictions on blood donations. Not only are the policies discriminatory, but their removal would also contribute to replenishing the global blood supply,” Senior Dheerj Jasuja said.

France has also lifted its ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men. Men who have not been sexually active with other men can donate blood. Gay men who have only had one partner for four months or have not been sexually active may donate plasma. Similarly, the Netherlands lifted its ban with a 12 month deferral period, and New Zealand cut its celibacy period for gay and bisexual men from one year to three months. In contrast, nations such as Austria, Belgium and Germany still have lifetime bans.

France has also lifted its ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men. Men who have not been sexually active with other men can donate blood.

Activists have campaigned for policy reforms for years. Ethan Spibey, founder of the British activist group FreedomToDonate, stated that the change is a significant shift towards recognizing people for their humanity instead of their sexuality. Although many countries continue to enforce bans or restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, demands to lift such laws have arisen and may push these nations to institute more changes as the coronavirus pandemic continues on.


About the Contributors

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer

Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.

Michelle Qiao

Staff Writer

Michelle Qiao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She loves to play volleyball and spends her free time reading, drinking coffee and watching Pixar movies.

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