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

by Rachel Savage and Elsa Ohlen | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 10:03 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

(Corrects timing in final par)

By Rachel Savage and Elsa Ohlen

LONDON, May 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - 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.

Brazil's Supreme Court ruled on Friday 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.

For now, Brazil's government will have to treat gay and bisexual men the same as heterosexual men when donating blood. It could write a new law that reinstates the ban, but its position is not yet clear.

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.

Last month, the United States and Northern Ireland cut their abstinence periods, while Australia said it plans to do so.

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

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

- Last month, Northern Ireland also reduced its deferral period from one year to three months, bringing it into line with regulations in the rest of the United Kingdom

- Some countries differentiate between blood products and blood in general, but in Britain men who have had sex with another man in the last three months and recovered from Covid-19 cannot donate their plasma to a coronavirus treatment trial

- 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 says its three-month abstinence period applies regardless of whether someone takes PrEP or not

- 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

- France reduced the waiting period for gay and bisexual men from 12 months to four this year, having lifted a ban on them giving blood in 2016

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Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation research, Reuters

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Elsa Ohlen; Additional reporting by Fabio Teixeira; Editing by Helen Popper and Hugo Greenhalgh. 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)

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