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France allows gay men to donate blood, regardless of when they had sex

A man has blood taken
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

France has lifted its previous restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

The country introduced a ban on gay guys giving blood in 1983 with the arrival of AIDS. The ban remained in place for over three decades.

In 2016, it allowed gay men to donate blood if they had not had sex in the previous 12 months. That was shortened to four months in 2019.

Last year, lawmakers voted to drop the time restrictions completely. The change in law took effect in March, with Health Minister Olivier Véran saying on Twitter, “we are ending an inequality that was no longer justified.”

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Violette Cordaro, head of the LGBTQ center Nosig in Nantes, said the change had partly come about because of the increase in gay men taking PrEP. This made the previous four-month restrictions nonsensical.

“It allows homosexuals who do not take PrEP—a preventive treatment that protects against HIV—to give blood. While those who do take it, who therefore carry the least risk, cannot give blood,” she said.

“In any case, in the LGBT community, many people are taking PrEP today, as there is still no vaccine [against HIV].”

People who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, including HIV or Hepatitis C, can still not donate blood.

What’s the blood donation situation in the US?

In the United States, men can only donate blood if they have not had sex with another man in the previous 90 days.

Earlier this year, LGBTQ advocates, health experts, and more than two dozen members of Congress wrote an open letter calling on the Food and Drug Administration to end the “discriminatory” practice.

The call came after the Red Cross said the Covid-19 pandemic had led to the biggest shortage in blood donations in over a decade.

“Any policy that continues to categorically single out the LGBTQ+ community is discriminatory and wrong. Given advances in blood screening and safety technology, a time-based policy for gay and bisexual men is not scientifically sound, continues to effectively exclude an entire group of people, and does not meet the urgent demands of the moment,” the group wrote.

Jay Franzone, an LGBTQ Advocate who has worked to end the gay blood ban, told Queerty he welcomed the news from France.

“France is joining the ranks of Spain, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Italy,” he said. “In the U.S., instead of implementing a ban on individuals with a high risk of contracting HIV, the Food and Drug Administration which oversees blood donor guidelines has chosen to focus on excluding an entire group of people.”

Advocacy group GLAAD has also called for the FDA to lift its ban.

Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, told NBC, “By relying on stigma rather than science, the FDA is not just harming members of the LGBTQ community, but all Americans.”

Related: What is Shigella—and why should gay men know about it?