France to Allow Gay Men to Donate Blood... After Four Months of Celibacy

Thursday July 18, 2019

There's good news... sort of... for gay men in France who wish to donate blood: They will soon be able to do so after only four months of complete celibacy instead of a full year.

The announcement came from the French ministry of health, reported France

The current policy in France, like in the United States, is to require twelve months of celibacy from gay donors — including a ban on oral sex. Critics of the yearlong referral period in the United States have pointed out that heterosexual men and women are not restricted from giving blood regardless of sexual activity, and that modern screening techniques can detect the presence of various pathogens, including the HIV virus, in donated blood. In the case of HIV, modern screening can detect the virus in as little as a week after an HIV-positive donor have been infected.

The American year-long deferral period was implemented in 2015 and was touted at the time as progress; before then, policies put in place in the early days of the AIDS crisis disqualified gay men for life from donating blood. But such so-called "progress" has drawn ongoing criticism in the face of both scientific advances and an acute shortage of donated blood. A recent op-ed at Arc Digital put in this way:

... the modified ban doesn't take into account if the man is in a committed relationship or practices safe sex. It applies even if the man has been recently tested for HIV. Meanwhile, so long as they meet health, height and weight requirements, heterosexual individuals who don't use condoms or have sex with multiple partners can donate freely.

The rules are similar in Australia, where a recent public service announcement encouraging blood donations came under fire for showing two men whom some supposed were intended to represent a same-sex couple. LGBTQ equality groups spoke out against what they perceived to be the backhanded depiction of gay men calling for donations from the general public when gay men are excluded for a full year after having had any sexual contact with another man.

In France, there is at least some measure of parity in effect. Heterosexuals there are required to have only had one sexual partner over a span of at least four months before they will be allowed to donate blood. If they have had two or more sexual partners in that period of time, they will not be eligible to donate.

Still, a single partner for heterosexuals is one more than gay men — even those in exclusive long-term relationships — are allowed under France's new policy.

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