Israel loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay men

Israel loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay men
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Israel loosened its restrictions for blood donations from gay and bisexual men on Thursday, establishing new screening guidelines that use gender-neutral wording.

Before Thursday, men who sought to donate blood in Israel were asked if they had a sexual encounter with another man within the past 12 months, according to The Associated Press. If the prospective donor said yes, they would be immediately disqualified from giving blood.

Now, however, the questionnaire for donating blood in Israel will ask applicants if they have had “high risk sexual relations with a new partner or partners” within the past three months, the AP reported. 

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Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is openly gay, hailed the move in a Facebook post on Thursday, writing that the decision “removed the denigrating and irrelevant questions” for prospective donors, and would now allow everyone to be treated the same regardless of their sexual orientation.

“There’s no difference between one blood and the other,” Horowitz said, according to the AP. “Discrimination against gays in donating blood is over.”

The move follows a similar decision in the U.S. last year, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was loosening its restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men by decreasing the recommended deferral period from 12 months to 3 months.

The decision was made as a number of hospitals nationwide were becoming increasingly concerned about blood shortages amid the pandemic.

A number of Democratic lawmakers and gay rights advocates pushed the FDA to loosen the restrictions, citing the blood shortages.

The deferral recommendation policy dates back to the HIV-AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which impacted gay and bisexual men more than others.

The United Kingdom also relaxed some restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men earlier this year, eliminating the three-month deferral window as long as there is no known exposure to sexually transmitted infections.

Gal Wagner Kolasko, the head of the Israeli LGBT Medical Associations, welcomed the decision and thanked Horowitz for his efforts.

“Now there are safe blood doses for all without discrimination or harming human rights. Because discrimination also causes serious damage to health,” he said, according to the AP.