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French MPs debate ending restrictions on gay blood donors

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By Mathieu Pollet
Gay donors will be able to give blood without any restriction after MPs voted the end of deferral
Gay donors will be able to give blood without any restriction after MPs voted the end of deferral   -   Copyright  Michael Conroy/AP

French MPs are debating whether to back moves to stop making some gay men wait four months before they are allowed to donate blood.

The delay had been enforced by the Ministry of Health amid the belief that sexually active homosexuals are a high-risk group and could spread viruses such as HIV via their donations. They are asked to remain celibate for 16 weeks before being allowed to give blood.

In late June, about 100 French MPs, sitting on a special parliamentary committee, voted for an amendment stating that “donor selection criteria cannot be based on the sex of the partner(s) with whom the donor has had sexual relations” as part of a bigger – more controversial – bioethics bill.

However, it must be backed by all French MPs before it can become law. The bill is currently being debated in France's parliament.

The chance of acquiring HIV is 22 times higher among men who have sex with men (MSM) according to UNAIDS. The donation delay had already been reduced from 12 to four months in April by the then-minister of health, Agnès Buzyn.

Clément Molizon, a spokesman for French LGBT organisation SOS Homophobie, argues that “it makes no sense to talk about high-risk population”. He said it is better to talk about “high-risk behaviour”.

“If you are in a relationship and you are being faithful, there is no reason you could not donate blood,” said Molizon.

The best way to ensure that MSM are not a high-risk population any longer is for the government to apply the needed means to eradicate HIV
Clément Molizon
SOS Homophobie Spokesperson

Procedures already require blood donations to be rigorously tested to rule them out being infected with viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis. But advocates for the ban say the test could be inaccurate.

In France, the chance to getting a virus from a blood donation is one in 6.6 million donations for the 2016-2018 period, according to Santé Publique France.