Gay men to be allowed to donate blood, with restrictions

Summary

As long as they don’t have sex, gay men will be able to give blood in Belgium, if a new draft becomes law

‘Step in the right direction’

Federal health minister Maggie De Block has drafted a law that would end the ban on gay men giving blood in Belgium. The proposal has been approved by the federal council of ministers and will now be analysed by the Council of State before becoming law.

Currently, a man who has ever had sex with another man is not allowed to donate blood. The new regulation would allow men to donate who have not had sex with other men for at least 12 months.

Other donors are also barred from giving blood if they have a new sexual partner, but only for four months. They are then no longer barred.

Red Cross units require donors to answer a list of questions to determine their risk factors. People are temporarily excluded from donating blood if they run a significant risk of having a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and in particular the HIV virus.

The Red Cross considers sex between men as risk behaviour. Other examples of risk behaviour are having sex for compensation, taking intravenous drugs or having sex with someone who takes intravenous drugs.

The criteria for temporary exclusion will be evaluated every two years, De Block said. “Our priority is the safety of the patient who needs a blood transfusion,” she said in a statement. “While sexual orientation doesn’t matter, risk behaviour is an important factor.”

LGBT rights organisation Cavaria called the proposal “a step in the right direction” but said that the exclusion period for gay men is too long.