From March 2022, abstinence will no longer be required in order for gay and bisexual men in France to give blood.
Hot off the heels of restrictions in Greece being lifted earlier this week, France is the latest country to put an end to blood-giving barriers that have been in place for queer men since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
France initially introduced a strict ban on blood donation for gay and bisexual men in 1983. Then, in 2016, the restrictions were eased and replaced with a requirement for gay and bisexual men to abstain from sex for one year before donating blood. This period was reduced to four months in 2019.
Announcing the move on January 11, Olivier Véra, the country’s Minister of Solidarity and Health took to Twitter to announce that the changes will come into effect on 16 March, saying:
“From March 16, all French people, whatever their sexual orientation, will be able to donate blood!
“We are ending an inequality that was no longer justified.”
The move means that, from March, references to sexual orientation in blood donation questionnaires will no longer be included, rather people will just be asked about recent sexual activity and drug use – though not in relation to sexual orientation.
Those wishing to donate blood will have to declare whether or not they are undergoing HIV prevention treatments.
“Imposing a four-month period of abstinence on homosexuals wishing to donate blood is totally absurd and has always been seen as a form of discrimination, especially when we know that donations are in short supply.”
“There must obviously be a health safety framework to respect, but it must not be based on the sexual orientation of the donor.”
In America, the FDA announced a relaxing of its restrictions on gay men being allowed to donate blood in 2020, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In place of the former deferral period of 1 year, if a male has had sex with another male, he need now only wait 3 months to donate blood.
Blood donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men were eased in England, Scotland and Wales in June 2021, by removing the condition that you had to refrain from anal sex for three months prior to donation.
Under new law, people can give blood providing they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months or longer, qualifying gay and bisexual men in sexually monogamous relationships to donate.
If you’re in the UK and want more information on giving blood click here.