Transgender people may not give blood or plasma for the time being in Belgium until research confirms that donating blood is safe for all parties, the Red Cross has said, as reported in Belgian Media.
When blood donors turn up to give blood, one of the questions on the form they have had to fill out since April asks if they have changed gender. If they reply in the affirmative, they will be refused as donors.
“The blood of a transgender person is certainly not bad blood,” Ine Tassignon, spokeswoman for the Red Cross said in a statement. “There is simply not enough scientific research to allow us to be sure it is completely safe, for the donor as much as for the patient. With people in transition it is also difficult to know how they are situated anatomically and physiologically – they are neither wholly man or wholly woman. How do we then define them?”
According to the organisation, international research suggests that rates of HIV are higher among transgender people. “We cannot ignore those figures,” the Red Cross said.
Support group Transgender Infopunt (TIP) agreed the research is lacking, but called into question the figures on HIV. “We have no idea what the risk really is,” said Joz Motmans of TIP, speaking to the VRT.
“There are a few studies from South America and Asia which show that the chance of HIV infection in the trans-population is around 20%. The Red Cross took its decision partly on the basis of that literature. But those studies are absolutely not representative. For example, they only looked at trans women or at sex workers.”
The ban is temporary, the Red Cross said. “If it turns out that there is no reason to exclude them either temporarily or permanently, we will obviously amend our policy.”
The Brussels Times
This story has been updated with additional reporting