Ban on blood donation based on sexual orientation to be lifted

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Ljubljana – The permanent ban on blood donation based solely on the personal circumstances of gender and sexual orientation will be abolished on 1 July, an expert group for transfusion medicine and infectious diseases has decided after the equality ombudsman raised the issue last December.

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality said at the time that the ban for all homosexual men is discriminatory, as they are excluded from taking part in this philanthropic activity despite safety of blood donation being ensured by additional tests.

It added that, although HIV and other blood-borne viruses are also transmitted during heterosexual sex, blood donation is only prohibited in advance and permanently for homosexual and bisexual men.

The institution argued the ban for homosexual men was originally meant to ensure that the donated blood was safe, as these men were generally more prone to HIV infection risks, according to statistical data.

However, the data by the public health authorities for 2009-2018 shows that newly diagnosed HIV infections were not only detected among homosexual men, as around 16% of newly infected persons got the virus through heterosexual sex.

A permanent ban on blood donation only for homosexual and bisexual men is therefore not an appropriate means of ensuring the safety of donated blood, as the risk depends primarily on sexual behaviour, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality said.

The Blood Transfusion Centre said at the time that regulations were to change in 2022, with only temporary bans on blood donations remaining in force, while donors would be selected on the basis of the riskiness of their sexual behaviour.

The promise seems to have been realised now, as the centre has informed the equality ombudsman that, based on a decision of the extended colleges for transfusion medicine and infectuous diseases, the selection procedure will be changed on 1 July.

“The permanent refusal to accept donated blood due to sexual orientation and sexual behaviour is being abolished, and is replaced by temporary refusal depending on the risk of the individual’s sexual behaviour,” the centre added.