Monday

4th Mar 2024

Opinion

Stop the unscientific discrimination of blood donors

  • Often men who have sex with men have to abstain totally from all sexual contacts for a number of months prior to the time of donating blood. This even if they have one steady partner — this applies even if they are married (Photo: Miłość Nie Wyklucza)
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The need for blood in our health care services is high. The supply can many times be too low and there is a risk for a lack of blood in many countries. This is a serious problem across Europe and the EU.

With that in mind it is problematic that many countries have rules that basically exclude men who have sex with men from the possibility to be blood donors. This even if such bars are not evidence based.

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  • Blood from men who have sex with men is not tainted. The fears of the past are not those of today (Photo: Testalize.me)

Today it is still common that the rules are different for men who have sex with men are to become blood donors than the rules applied to heterosexual men. The group is assigned more restrictions and longer periods of deferral then others.

This is the case in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Belgium. Which is surprising since the Nordic countries have a self-image of not discriminating against persons in the LGBT-group.

A typical example of these rules is that blood donors that are not part of the group men who have sex with men may be blood donors as long as they haven't had any new sex partners for a certain amount of time.

Meaning they can still have an active sex life with their partner.

Enforced celibacy

But often men who have sex with men have to abstain totally from all sexual contacts for a number of months prior to the time of donating blood. This even if they have one steady partner — this applies even if they are married.

That means that men who have sex with men are forced in to celibacy in order to be blood donors. Which is unnecessary, deprives the health care of donors and constitutes a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It also deprives these men of having a normal sex life with their steady partner, like heterosexual mail donors can have.

To ask this of gay married couples is a gross violation of the marital relationship of these male couples.

This is not necessary. Each and every one that wants to be a blood donor deserves to be judged based on their individual behaviour — not prejudiced as being part of one group. You can have a pattern of sexual contacts that may pose a higher risk no matter if you are straight, bi or gay. It is time to address this issue and make it possible for men who have sex with men to become blood donors across Europe on the same terms as others as is the case in Ireland, Spain, Germany and Malta to name some.

Blood from men who have sex with men is not tainted. The fears of the past are not those of today. If we let science trump discrimination, we can abolish rules that judge a group and open the door for all individuals to be accepted or declined on their personal, individual, merits as blood donors. It is time for evidence-based rules for blood donation. This would raise the potential number of blood donors across Europe and will help relieve the need for blood at our hospitals.

In march Swedish MEP Jessica Polfjärd of the European People's Party raised the issue in the European Parliament. Her suggestion is to adjust the EU high standard of quality and safety in the legislation on blood, tissues and cells that is under revision.

Stating that separate rules based on belonging to a group instead of being assed as an individual constitutes discrimination. That national regulations should avoid this and instead be based on evidence and an individual risk assessment. The European Centre-Right LGBT+ Alliance supports this initiative.

There are ongoing campaigns and discussions in countries that still have rules that discriminate towards this group to create change. The European Centre-Right LGBT+ Alliance supports these efforts.

We therefore call upon governments and responsible authorities in EU member countries and every other country in Europe to take action for evidence-based blood donation and to stop discriminatory practises against a group of potential blood donors. Blood is blood and all blood is valuable. Can we really afford to act any other way?

Author bio

Fredrik Saweståhl is president of the European Centre-Right LGBT+ Alliance and a Swedish MP. Helge Ytterøy L’orange is vice-president of the European Centre-Right LGBT+ Alliance and chairman of Åpne Høyre in Norway. Gerben Horst is a vice president of the European Centre-Right LGBT+ Alliance, and a representative of the CDA Pride Netwerk in the Netherlands.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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