The period of abstinence that homosexuals need to observe in France before they can donate blood will be reduced from one year to four months from 1 February 2020, the French Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
This is an “evolution” and a “first step” towards a n alignment of conditions for homosexual donors with those for heterosexual ones that is scheduled to be completed by 2022. For the safety of recipients, this alignment can only occur after the risks are assessed “in all transparency,” the ministry said.
The need to abstain for one year was heavily criticised as discriminatory by associations representing homosexuals when it was imposed by decree in 2016. Before then, since 1983, men who had sex with men had been totally banned from giving blood.
Since July 2016, homosexuals and men who have sex with men can also donate their plasma based on the same criteria as other donors. Plasma used in cases of haemorrhage is also used in the manufacture of medication: immunoglobulins, coagulants and other products for badly burnt persons and those in need of resuscitation.
The decision by Health Minister Agnès Buzyn to reduce the mandatory pre-donation waiting time from 12 to 4 months after the last sexual relations between men is part of the regular assessment of donor-selection criteria and “is based on scientific, objective and independent elements,” the ministry said.
Studies by the French public health agency SpF have shown that opening up blood donation to gay men in July 2016 had not increased the residual risk of HIV transmission, which was already “very low” in France.
Moreover, a study known as Complidon conducted among 110,000 donors showed that the access criteria for blood donation was largely respected, except for rare occasions when they were not understood or accepted, the ministry noted.
“Donating blood is not a right but a gesture from one citizen to another, which requires respect for the conditions of the donation,” the ministry recalled. A homosexual man who, for example, has had more than one sex partner over the previous four months needs to abstain from giving blood.
The Brussels Times