What are the blood donation rules globally for gay and bisexual men?

Monday, 14 December 2020 16:23 GMT

A Red Cross worker picks up donated blood at the USC basketball court as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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Calls have grown for bans on gay and bisexual men giving blood to be lifted, as blood supplies come under pressure due to Covid-19 pandemic

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Dec 14 (Openly) - Countries around the world are reviewing restrictions on blood donations by gay and bisexual men imposed during the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis, with some removing blanket bans and others reducing waiting periods after gay sex.

On Monday, New Zealand's government cut the celibacy period for gay and bisexual men to give blood from a year to three months.

In Britain, which had a three-month deferral period, a behaviour-based policy will be used by "summer 2021", meaning anyone - gay or straight - who has had anal sex with multiple partners or a new partner will be barred from donating blood.

As blood supplies have come under pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic, calls have grown for governments to replace abstinence periods for men who have sex with men to donate blood with individual risk-based assessments.

Here are the rules governing blood donation by gay and bi men around the world:

- Countries that impose lifelong bans on gay and bisexual men donating blood include Croatia, Iceland, Malaysia, Slovenia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago and Ukraine

- At least 17 countries now have no restrictions, including Argentina, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Spain and, as of January this year, Hungary

- Brazil's Supreme Court ruled in May that a 12-month deferral period for gay and bi men to give blood was unconstitutional, a policy LGBT+ campaigners had long argued was discriminatory given modern blood-screening technology

- In April 2020, the United States cut its celibacy period from 12 months to three months amid a blood shortage

- Northern Ireland reduced its deferral period in April 2020, from one year to three months, bringing it into line with regulations in the rest of the United Kingdom at that time

- Most countries do not mention whether taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a HIV-prevention drug, affects gay and bi men's ability to donate blood. Britain said its new restrictions still include a three-month abstinence period for anyone who takes PrEP, although that is under review

- When Australia announced its intention to cut the abstinence period from 12 months to three in April, it said people taking PrEP would still have a 12-month abstinence period

- Austria lifted a blanket ban on men who have sex with men giving blood, replacing it with a 12-month abstinence period for gay and bi men in December 2019

- In March, Denmark lifted its lifelong ban, implementing a previously announced waiting period of four months

Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation research, Reuters

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(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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