Israel Ends Ban on Blood Donations From Homosexual Men

Ido Efrati
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A blood donation van in Israel
A blood donation van in Israel Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Ido Efrati

Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced Thrusday that the ministry is scrapping a long-standing ban forbidding homosexual men from donating blood.

In Israel, it is currently forbidden to take blood donations from men who have had sex with other men in the year preceding the donation. Under the new decision, the wording that will appear on the blood donation questionnaire will refer to "having high-risk sex" - with new or multiple partners - regardless of sexual orientation and gender. Prospective donors who report engaging in "high-risk sex" will be barred from donating for only three months.

The policy change is expected to come into effect starting in October. 

"From blood to blood, there's no difference. The ban was left over from an old stereotype that belongs in history," Horowitz said. 

"We took another historic step towards equality for the LGBT community in Israel, and that's something to be proud of." 

In 2018, gay and bisexual men were allowed to donate blood through a new procedure that uses only the bloods' plasma component. For many years they have not been allowed to donate blood in Israel. 

In June 2017 Israel aligned itself with many other countries in the West and updated its criteria for blood donations. Under the new policy, homosexual men could donate blood on the condition that they did not have same-sex relations in the 12 months preceding the donation.

Practically speaking, however, this change made little difference since blood banks remained reluctant to trust potential donors self-reporting about their sex life.

Many countries prohibited gay men from donating blood in the 1980s for fear that they might be carriers of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Several have since eased the criteria for accepting donations from gay men, allowing them to donate blood after abstention periods ranging from six months to five years.

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