• France edition
 
Opinion: Giving blood
'France must lift ban on gay men giving blood'
Giving blood. Should a lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in France be overturned? Photo: Kenny Holston

'France must lift ban on gay men giving blood'

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Saulnier says it is time to change this outdated view.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.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France weighs medicine sales at supermarkets
Could medicine soon be available in supermarkets in France? Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP

France weighs medicine sales at supermarkets

France’s top financial watchdog says it’s time to end the monopoly pharmacies have on selling over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol as well as cold and flu remedies. The watchdog believes introducing competition will bring down prices. READ  

Air Algérie crash: pilots asked to 'turn back'
This photo shows debris of the Air Algerie Flight AH 5017 scattered at the crash site in Mali's Gossi region, west of Gao, on July 26, 2014. Photo: AFP

Air Algérie crash: pilots asked to 'turn back'

France was mourning on Monday as authorities revealed the pilots aboard the Air Algérie flight had asked permission to turn back just before the jet went down, killing 118 people. Bad weather has been increasingly blamed for the accident. READ  

Imperiled Iraqi Christians offered asylum in France
France has offered asylum to Iraqi Christians displaced by islamist militants. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP

Imperiled Iraqi Christians offered asylum in France

France has offered asylum to thousands of Christians in Iraq displaced by threats and violence from the jihadists who have invaded portions of the country. The islamists have given Christians the ultimatum of convert or leave. READ  

Two Irish montaineers killed on Mont Blanc
Two climbers incuding one Irishman were killed in a fall on Mont Blanc on Sunday. Photo: Philippe Merle/AFP

Two Irish montaineers killed on Mont Blanc

Two Irishmen were killed in after slipping and falling in the Mont Blanc range on Sunday. It comes after an American businessman outraged French authorities for trying to scale the mountain with his young children. READ  

Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
Another Parisian rat. Photo: Jean-Jacques Boujot.

Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens

VIDEO: The lawns of the Louvre, a favourite picnic haunt of tourists and Parisians, are offering visitors a real-life Ratatouille experience after being invaded by rodents. READ  

France's Muslims mark the end of 'holiest month'
France's Muslims will mark the end of holiest month on Monday. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

France's Muslims mark the end of 'holiest month'

France’s Muslim population, which is the largest in Europe, will end on Monday its holiest festival of the year: Ramadan. However, the date is not without controversy due to the unique way the annual rite’s duration is chosen. READ  

Lion wounds 16-month-old child at French circus
A lion injured a child at a French circus. Photo: Alexandre Imamura/Flickr

Lion wounds 16-month-old child at French circus

A lion reached out of its cage and scratched a 16-month-old girl at a circus in France on Sunday, injuring the child's head and back. The news came the same day as a not guilty verdict for the owner of a circus elephant that killed an elderly pétanque player. READ  

Marseille: Pro-Israel march held amid tension
Thousands march in support of Israel in Marseille. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

Marseille: Pro-Israel march held amid tension

Up to 6,000 demonstrators marched through the French city of Marseille on Sunday in support of Israel. The rally was held amid tight security as dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters tried to disrupt the demonstration. READ  

French nationals told to flee chaos in Libya
Libyan security services and civilians gather across the street after a car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, Libya on April 23rd, 2013. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AF

French nationals told to flee chaos in Libya

France has warned its nationals to leave Libya due to the worsening security situation there and the threat of terror attacks. French warnings come amid similar calls for evacuation from other European nations and the United States. READ  

Italian Nibali wins 2014 Tour de France
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (R) wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey toasts champagne with Astana teammates. Photo: Jean-Paul Pelissier/AFP

Italian Nibali wins 2014 Tour de France

Italian Vincenzo Nibali won the 2014 Tour de France on Sunday after the final stage that ended on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue. Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot finished second and third. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se