France will lift a ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men starting next year, officials announced, joining a growing list of countries that have loosened or scrapped such restrictions, which many see as outdated vestiges of the 1980s AIDS crisis.
“Giving one’s blood is an act of generosity and of civic responsibility that cannot be conditioned by sexual orientation,” the health minister, Marisol Touraine, said. “While respecting the absolute security of patients, it is a taboo, a discrimination that is being lifted today.”
Gay advocacy groups in France welcomed the end of the ban but criticized new provisions that would continue to treat homosexual and heterosexual blood donors differently. Some critics, while welcoming the lifting of the lifetime ban, say that a 12-month deferral period is not medically justified, mainly because the so-called window period for HIV is much shorter than 12 months. They assert that the restriction amounts to a de facto lifetime ban for many gay men, since it requires that they be celibate for a year before being able to donate blood.