stick 'em

Sweden OKs Gay Blood Donors, But Only If You Swear Off Sex for a Year

Two steps forward, one step back, as the kids (used to) say. Beginning March 1, Sweden will make the logical step of letting gay men donate blood, inserting their gross, ewwwwy platelets into the national blood supply. But: only if said gay men say they haven’t had sex with other dudes in the past year. That’s because Swedish health officials — who will continue testing all donated blood for contaminants — will still ban anyone who engaged “sexually risky behaviour,” a list that still includes anal sex. And by the way, the announcement was timed to World AIDS Day, because this is supposedly a really big deal. Which, let’s be sure, it is. But the stigmatization of gay men continues unabated.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #blood #blooddonation #health stories and more


  • Rob

    I’m fine with a deferral based on anal sex as long as it applies to heterosexual couples as well.

    I’ll probably continue to donate blood until the FDA revises their policies. The notion that all gay men (“MSM”) are at an equal high risk of transmitting HIV through blood donation is completely false.

  • Steffan Mathias

    The link between gay blood bans and homophobia pretty much breaks down when you look at the attitudes of Gay HIV charities over the past few years which has been to move from a situation of opposition to reluctant acceptance that for the time being, it’s the best measure.

    We recently held a conference with a representative who initiated the original UK anti-ban campaign, and a representative from THT who are a very influencial, mainly gay-let HIV charity, who used to oppose the ban. Due to recent evidence, they’d both reversed their position. Talk to alot of Queer people who work in HIV/Aids/Blood services and they’ll have similar attitudes. The fact is, in some countries blood demographics, certain groups do have far higher incidents of HIV, and that as odd as it sounds, blood testing techniques aren’t that advanced. There are so many issues to do with how to question people over what activities they’ve been involved in that there’s such a danger of incorrectly assessing people.

    It’s important as LGBT people we fight prejudice but that we do so responsibly, and don’t bully organisations with labels of homophobia when if fact they’re just working with the data they have available and narrowing down the chances of infecting blood supplies and put pressure to change things that it might not be best to change. Blood service regulations in the UK and the US do need reforming (not being able to give blood 10 years and 20 HIV negative results after having sex with a man is ridiculous) but remember it’s not *gay* blood that’s rejected as instinctively * disgusting* but ‘men who have sex with men’ and are therefore in a higher risk category. There’s lots of facts, i’m pretty sure if you check out they have a section on it

    Sorry if that sounds like a rant, but its important that we don’t demonise people, especially if they happen to be a straight person who can’t defend themselves with “but i’m gay…” for simply going with what most experts think is the best idea

  • Spike

    Stefan: That wasn’t a rant at all. Good take. Interesting info. And after a bit of contemplation (a rare occurrence for me…) I find that I have to agree with you.

  • Rob

    My issues with the ban:

    1) Lifetime Deferral.

    When 99% of the time HIV can be detected in blood 3 months after exposure, a lifetime ban is ridiculous. Any pretense of scientific credibility goes out of the window with this.

    2) Oral Sex

    Oral Sex somehow counts as high-risk behavior. There has never been a case of someone contracting HIV from getting oral sex (protected or unprotected), and getting HIV from giving unprotected oral sex is exceedingly rare. And yet somehow, when this happens between males it’s riskier than unprotected heterosexual anal sex. Right.

    3) Disparity between receptive/insertive anal sex

    According to the CDC’s own data, protected insertive anal sex is not much risking than protected insertive vaginal sex. Hmm…

    4) Correlation between HSV2/HPV positivity and HIV positivity

    Having open sores on/in your penis/rectum is a great way to get HIV. In fact, a solid majority of people who are HIV+ contracted HIV because of the effects of these other STIs. Do they produce antibodies in the blood, and thus can be tested for? Yes. Are they a good predictor of HIV status for at-risk groups? Yes. Does anyone seem to care? Nope.

    5) Blood can be stored.

    Blood can be stored for much longer than the 3-month incubation time of the HIV. Donate blood again, test it, and if negative the odds of the previously-donated blood transmitting HIV are next to nil.

    6) Mutually Monogamous and/or Condom-Wearing Gay Men

    Either of these subgroups are a lowered risk for HIV. Yes, people can cheat and condoms can break. I’d like to see the data for the infection rates of these subgroups, and how it compares to other groups who are at risk yet allowed to donate. My suspicion is that vast majority (98%+) of new HIV infections are due to *unprotected* sex.

    7) No stated acceptable level of risk

    How high exactly does your risk need to be for you to be deferred from donation? I’m all for being un-PC in excluding people from donating blood as long as everyone’s held to the same standard.

  • WillBFair

    This is a non issue. We should be thinking nonstop about how to stop aids in our own community. Hear? Stop aids in our community. We know the transmission method. And there are plenty of strategies that would work like a charm.
    Instead, we’re issuing orders to Swedish health officials. Please. Let them take care of their own responsibilities.
    We have enough to worry about, with a large group of self destructive queens highjacking the discussion, no serious talk on the subject allowed, peer group pressure off the table, and plenty of us making excuses for the bare backers.
    Get real.

  • juz

    i still don’t get it really. they screen all the blood given anyway gay strait or chinese, whats the difference. all very silly. if you really wanna give blood just lie

  • Judith

    I don’t get this. Why is it discrimination to ban certain blood, whatever the reason? There is no benefit to the donor. If he wants to help people, he can do that in other ways. It would be discrimination to ban gays from receiving blood.

  • Andy

    @Judith: @juz: Because even the best tests cannot show a very recent HIV infection.

Comments are closed.