• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'France must lift ban on gay men giving blood'

Ben McPartland · 17 Jul 2013, 17:00

Published: 17 Jul 2013 15:46 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jul 2013 17:00 GMT+02:00

France’s Minister of Health Marisol Touraine was handed a report this week that looks set to launch a new row over gay rights in France.

Socialist MP Olivier Véran, the author of the potentially divisive report, says it is time to end discrimination when it comes to blood donors.

Veran, who is also a doctor, has recommended that the lifetime ban on homosexual male donors that was put in place in 1983 because of fears over the spread of AIDS, should now be lifted.

Rather than focus on the sexuality of the donor, the report suggests the emphasis should be on the individual risk of each donor, whether heterosexual or homosexual, in terms of whether or not their blood could be contaminated.

That view has been backed up by French gay rights organisation, "SOS-Homophobie" which has been battling for years to have the ban overturned.

The organisation’s treasurer Ludovic Saulnier told The Local on Wednesday that advances in science and a need for equality in France mean the restriction should be lifted.

“France is well behind other countries on this issue. In Spain, Portugal and Italy homosexual men are allowed to give blood and there has been no increase in risk to public health there.

"Nothing shows that allowing gay men to give blood has increased the dangers for people receiving transfusions.

“The question has to be about the level of risk and not about the sexuality of the donor. Why shouldn’t a homosexual man be able to give blood just a like a heterosexual man if the risks are properly evaluated,” he added.

Currently male donors in France are asked about their sexuality in an interview before giving blood. Anyone who says that they have been in a gay relationship at any point in their lives is automatically banned from giving blood.

The 1983 law was based on statistics that showed there was a prevalence of the HIV virus among homosexuals and the fact that the virus is not always picked up if blood tests take place immediately after transmission.

Saulnier says it is time to change this outdated view.

“There is still this stereotypical image of all gay men having AIDS, which comes from the 1980s. People simply thought AIDS was a gay man’s disease and we are stuck with that view today.

“Most gay couples are simply like any other heterosexual couples in terms of their sexual practices.

“Allowing homosexual men to give blood will take away the risk that people lie on the questionnaires. People who give blood are normally responsible people. They do it for the benefit of someone else and will not do it if they think they pose a risk.

For his part the MP Véran says improving the interviews and questionnaires given to donors will only enhance public safety.

“It’s not because you’re gay or that you had a sexual relationship with a man 30 years ago that you are a time bomb,” he told France Info radio.

“The ban on giving blood can be seen as discriminatory if it is not based on science,” he added.

France legalised gay marriage in May, and now SOS Homophobie says the French government has another opportunity to act against discrimination.

“We are not asking for any new rights,” Saulnier says. “We just want the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“This is about the equality. The government has made social reforms in favour of equality, and tackling the different forms of discrimination that exist should be its priority,” he said.

Several other countries have already lifted similar lifetime bans on gay men giving blood.

Story continues below…

In South Africa, where AIDS has been prevalent, there now has to be a six-month gap between sex and blood donation. In Australia, Sweden and Japan it is a year.

In 2011 the UK also lifted a lifetime ban on homosexual and bisexual men giving blood after medical evidence said the restriction could be no longer justified. Ministers agreed that men who had not had sex with another man in the past 12 months would be allowed to donate.

France is by no means certain to follow suit given Touraine's most recent comments on the issue.

“I don’t think it’s good that there is an element of discrimination involved, but at the same time I cannot lift the ban unless I am given an absolute guarantee that it will not increase the risk for transfusions,” Touraine said in December.

According to France’s Europe1 radio the minister is concerned about the fact that in 2011, 40 percent of new cases of HIV were among gay men. However gay rights groups argue the statistics are skewed because they are based on data taken from areas where male prostitution is high or where sexual encounters are common.

SOS Homophobie simply wants the minister to reconsider her position.

“We want her to study this report and look at what has happened in other European countries. There is no reason why there should be this segregation among blood donors anymore on the grounds of sexuality,” Saulnier said.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Who is to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
CGT union's workers block with burning tires the access to the refinery of Fos-sur-Mer, southeastern France. Photo: AFP

With petrol stations quickly running empty and the protests set to rumble on, who can be held responsible for the growing crisis?

Paris unveils first stretch of 'bicycle highway'
Photo: AFP

Could Paris be on the way to becoming the new Amsterdam for bikes?

French air traffic control unions call for June strikes
Photo: AFP

Air traffic controllers and thousands of other workers could be set for a three day strike at the beginning of June.

IMF urges France to deepen job reforms
Photo: AFP

The International Monetary Fund has warned France to go beyond its already hotly contested job market reforms.

Dordogne named among the 'best places in Europe'
Photo: Dale Musselman/Flickr

Travel company the Lonely Planet calls the Dordogne "France's foodiest region".

French fuel crisis: 'A quarter' of petrol stations run dry
Workers on strike block the access to the harbour of Saint-Nazaire, western France to protest against the government's planned labour law reforms. Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Over 3,200 petrol stations are now reportedly empty or running dry.

French police 'raid Google's Paris offices in tax probe'
Photo: AFP

Around 100 French officials and police have raided Google's offices in Paris, reports say.

EgyptAir Flight MS804
EgyptAir: Human remains 'suggest explosion on board'
Photo: Egyptian Armed Forces

New findings, if confirmed, would support the theory that a bomb may have brought down the plane.

How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
How to avoid the fuel crisis in France. Photo: AFP

There are far worse places to be stuck with no fuel than rural France, but here's some official advice on how holidaymakers can avoid becoming stranded.

Special ops units to police Tour de France for first time
Photo: AFP

France is taking security at the Tour de France extremely seriously this year.

National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
Lifestyle
New map reveals Paris flat prices by Metro station
Culture
Paris: Here's how to find French cinema in English
Culture
How to say 'OUCH' in French (and ten other sounds)
National
Get ready: France to be hit by week of transport strikes
Culture
France readies for first national 'motorway party'
National
Is this the eco-solution to France's wild-peeing plague?
Sport
Paris mayor wants Seine to be 'swimmable' before Olympics
National
IN PICTURES: Police car torched in Paris protests
National
Why there's another rail strike in France and more to come
National
Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'?
Culture
Foolproof ways to make French friends in France
National
Seventeen French ex-ministers vow to shine light on sex harassment
Lifestyle
French Riviera mega-mansion faces being bulldozed
Culture
Eight ways the French are different to Parisians
2,738
jobs available