A mobile blood donation unit will be set up at a gay pride event next Friday in Tel Aviv, putting into practice for the first time a new Magen David Adom procedure that will enable members of the community to donate blood.
Until now gay and bisexual men have not been allowed to donate blood in Israel because they are considered a high-risk group, who are statistically more likely to be infected with AIDS or with HIV, the virus that causes it.
This policy will change under a new system that screens blood twice and uses only the plasma component of the blood.
It will be implemented for the first time at a gay community health conference to be held in Tel Aviv on May 25, where a mobile blood donation unit is to be set up and members of the community invited to donate blood.
Magen David Adom will provide the unit at the event under the auspices of the Tel Aviv municipality. The plan is being undertaken in cooperation with the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association and the Tel Aviv Municipal LGBT Community Center.
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The event follows an announcement by the blood bank at the beginning of the year that it would begin accepting donations from homosexual donors through a special procedure.
Under the procedure, gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood will be required to fill in a form giving their consent to having their plasma frozen. The blood they donate will undergo routine tests. If it is found to be normal, the plasma will be separated and preserved while the rest of the blood fluid — which cannot be preserved as easily as plasma can — will not be used. The plasma will be frozen for four months, at which time the donor will have to return to give another unit of blood. If the second donation is sound, the plasma from the previous donation will be used. The plasma from the new donation will then be frozen for possible use four months later, assuming the donor is prepared to return again.
The “double test” procedure is considered a way to ensure that the donated blood is safe for use.
MDA’s director of blood Services, Dr. Eilat Shinar said on Wednesday that the procedure has been tried in other parts of the world. “Before we launched this initiative we consulted with experts in Israel and the rest of the world and received encouragement from international experts who felt it was a logical and reasonable step.
“The units that are kept frozen are the safest in the bank because the donor has been checked once upon donating and then a second time four months later,” explained Shinar.
MDA director general Eli Bin added that “today the entire population can take part in saving life without regard to their sexual orientation. Donating blood is a right and an obligation for all Israeli citizens.”
Blood plasma is especially needed to treat burn victims, liver patients, transplant recipients and hemophiliacs.