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Europe Court of Justice Calls for End to Gay Blood Ban

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Jul 17, 2014

Europe's Court of Justice is putting its foot down: being a gay man should not mean you are banned from ever giving blood. Gay Star News reports today that Paulo Megnozzi, an Advocate General, said that to refuse blood from a man who has had sex with another man is "discriminatory, unnecessary and should be stopped."

"Sexual orientation is not in itself a risk," said Mengozzi.

The decision comes after Frenchman Geoffrey Léger tried to donate blood in 2009 at the Établissement Français Du Sang (French Blood Agency), and was refused for being gay. Léger fought back against the decision, and the tribunal administration at Strasbourg have asked the European Court of Justice whether the permanent ban on gay and bisexual men is compatible with EU rules. The EU directive clearly states any group that engages in high risk sexual behavior should be banned from giving blood, but notes that simply being gay is not inherently risky.

"This is a very significant opinion which clearly identifies the core problem with such bans: identity of a person or a particular sexuality do not as such represent a risk factor in blood donation and the authorities responsible for ensuring public safety must take into consideration individual sexual behavior of potential blood donors instead," said Paulo Côrte-Real, co-chair of ILGA-Europe's Executive Board.

Pink News further reports that Mengozzi said France's policy was too broad and generic, and should take in account individual sexual behavior, rather than sexual orientation.

"By definitively excluding every man who has had, or has, sexual relations with another man from giving blood, the French legislation introduces obvious indirect discrimination on the combined bases of gender (men) and of sexual orientation (homosexuality and bisexuality)," he wrote in his report.

To make his point, Mengozzi noted that the nation doesn't ban donations from heterosexuals who have frequent unprotected sex, women whose partners have had sexual relations with other men, or a person whose partner is HIV-positive -- they are only subject to a temporary ban of four months, even though such cases have a much higher risk of exposure.

Pink News also outlined the current policies in other countries. In 2011, England, Wales and Scotland introduced a 12-month deferral for gay and bisexual men, but it is due to high rates of Hepatitis B in MSM, which can take a year to be cleared from the body. Northern Ireland has a lifetime ban, and South Africa now bans all people from giving blood for six months after having sex with a new partner. Anyone with multiple partners will be banned from donating.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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