Gay Men and Giving Blood: Destroying Stigma

Gay men can go to prison if they donate blood in these countries

If you’re shocked to learn that there are still countries that outlaw gay men donating blood, then you’re not alone. Many people across the west are shocked to learn that this discrimination is codified in law, but the sad fact is that there are still many countries that do so. 

These laws are often based on the belief that gay men are at a higher risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. Therefore, their blood may be contaminated. This belief has been debunked by scientific research, which has shown that the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusion is extremely low, regardless of the sexual orientation of the donor. However, many countries still have laws in place prohibiting gay men from donating blood, even if they’re healthy and don’t have any infectious diseases.

A brief history of the exclusion of gay men from blood donation

In the 1980s and 1990s, after thousands of people contracted HIV through products made from donated blood, health services around the world created formal policies excluding donors who engaged in ‘high-risk behaviour’. These policies varied in scope from outright bans to ‘deferral periods’, where a gay man has to abstain from having sexual intercourse with another man for a specified number of months, if not years, before being eligible to donate. Today, LGBTQ activists maintain that these measures are steeped in homophobia and hysteria.

In 2022, the risk of contracting HIV through blood supply has been virtually wiped out thanks to greater knowledge of HIV prevention, testing and management. While progress is being made, and many countries have relaxed their rules based on science, there are still many countries that impose deferral periods or outright ban gay men from donating blood.

© The Economist

As of 2022, these countries prohibit gay men from donating blood:

  • Algeria
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Iran
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • The Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Venezuela

Advocates for the wholesale lift of the ban on gay men donating blood point out that with today’s testing measures, HIV tests are virtually instantaneous, so there’s no sense in having bans or deferral periods at all. The ban simply targets a specific portion of the population for no real reason other than bias.

What are the benefits of lifting the bans in these countries?

Reducing or eliminating the deferral period imposed on gay men who donate blood may contribute to combating the stigma still associated with HIV and AIDS, and the incorrect and damaging link to gay men. Not to mention the fact that getting rid of these policies will literally result in lives saved, as more healthy and usable donated blood will become available on the open market.

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