France and Greece have kicked off 2022 by lifting “discriminatory” restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
Last week, French health minister Olivier Véran announced that the government was “putting an end to an inequality that was no longer justified.
Beginning March 16, France will remove all references to sexual orientation from blood donor forms, opening up donation to all French citizens regardless of sexuality.
France’s director-general of health, Jérôme Salomon, summed up the changes during a press briefing: “Any person will arrive as an individual donor.”
Prior to the changes, gay and bisexual men experienced a de facto ban which required them to have abstained from sex for four months prior to donating blood.
Prior to 2019, they were required to have abstained for one year, EuroNews reports. Prior to 2016, France operated a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual me donating blood — a policy that was adopted in 1983 in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Salomon noted that the risk of infected blood entering the supply chain had been “falling steadily for decades,” which led to the de facto ban being lifted.
Greek health officials have also opted to lift their country’s ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
Unlike France and many other nations, Greece had previously made no efforts to update its lifetime ban on gay blood since it was introduced in 1977.
Last year, Greece’s center-right government reviewed the policy, with health minister Thanos Plevris urged Greece’s National Blood Transfusion Center to remove rules that don’t adhere to “current medical data.”
On Monday, Jan. 10, Plevris signed a ministerial decree abolishing the restrictions on gay and bisexual men, Greek City Times reports.
LGBTQ activists cheered the news, with LGBTQ rights organization ΟΛΚΕ telling PinkNews that lifting the ban was “the least this government had to do.”
“Of course, it is great news, and we hope the government will pay more attention to other discriminations in the healthcare system and in education,” Irene Petropoulou, chairperson of ΟΛΚΕ, said. “Gay and bisexual men are free now to give blood without pretending they are straight men.”
France and Greece follow a number of other European nations that have lifted or loosened restrictions on gay men donating blood.
Last year, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom lifted abstention requirements for gay men in monogamous relationships, although deferral periods remain for those who have sex outside of relationships — either four months (Germany, Netherlands) or three months (UK).
The United States reduced its deferral period in 2020, from 12 months to 3 months, to address blood shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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