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HEALTH

France lifts ‘absurd’ barrier to gay men giving blood

Gay men will soon be able to donate blood on the same basis as all other groups after the French health ministry lifted a sexual abstinence requirement. Many Brits, however, remained barred from giving blood in France.

A medical professional prepares to insert a needle into the arm of a blood donor
Photo: Miguel Medina / AFP MEDINA

References to sexual orientation will be removed from blood donation questionnaires, putting what Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Twitter was, “an end to an inequality that was no longer justified”.

From March 16th, in line with bioethics laws and the “political will” of the Minister of Health, a decree signed on Tuesday will make blood donation accessible to all on the basis of the same criteria.

A ban on gay men giving blood in France, that had been in place since 1983 over fears of the spread of AIDS, was officially lifted in July 2016. But potential donors were still required to adhere to a period of sexual abstinence before being allowed to donate. 

That period – which, from March, will be removed – was originally set at one year before being cut to four months in 2019.

The decision was welcomed by the L’Interassociative lesbienne, gaie, bi et trans (Inter LGBT). “Imposing a four-month period of abstinence on homosexuals wishing to donate blood is totally absurd and has always been seen as a form of discrimination, especially when we know that donations are in short supply,” spokesman Matthieu Gatipon-Bachette told Le Parisien.

“There must obviously be a health safety framework to respect, but it must not be based on the sexual orientation of the donor,” he added.

France’s Director générale de la Santé, Jérôme Salomon, agrees. “The extreme vigilance of the health authorities allows for a change in the conditions of access to blood donation,” he said. 

The risk of transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by transfusion “has been falling steadily for decades”, he said.

Potential donors will have to declare if they are undergoing treatments related to HIV prevention, and will also still be asked questions relating to recent sexual activity or drug use, but questionnaires and pre-donating interviews will no longer include questions on sexual orientation.

“These are questions donors are already used to,” Professor Salomon said. 

Most people living in France are able to give blood, but anyone who lived in Britain for more than a year during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis between 1980 and 1996 is still banned. The illness, which affects cows, can spread to humans in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

READ ALSO Can Brits give blood in France?

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PROPERTY

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

The annual demands for property taxes have begun arriving at households across France - and many people will notice quite a difference to last year's bill.

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

Every year in September and October the French tax office sends out bills to households across France relating to property taxes – these are separate to income tax bills, which arrive over the summer.

The autumn bills are usually made up of three parts; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle.

However, system changes to all three parts mean that for some people bills will be be much lower than last year, while others will have nothing at all to pay.

Here’s what changes;

Redevance audiovisuelle – this was the TV licence and was charged at €138 per household, with some exceptions for pensioners or people who had no TV.

This year, it has been scrapped for everyone (including second-home owners) so most people’s bills are €138 less than last year.

Taxe d’habitation – this is the householder’s tax, paid by the inhabitant of the property – whether you rent it or own it. This is gradually being phased out, a process that started in 2019. It has been done based on income, with those on lower incomes having the charge scrapped first until it is gradually scrapped for everyone – with the exception of very high earners and second home owners.

So depending on your income level, you may have already had the tax phased out, or it may be phased out for you this year, or you may be paying a reduced rate this year.

These two changes are part of a tax giveaway from president Emmanuel Macron, and at the bottom of your tax bill you will find a note explaining how the charges have changed this year, and what you would have paid without the reductions.

It will look something like this;

Taxe foncière – this is the property owners’ tax and is paid on any property that you own – if you own the home you live in you may need to pay both taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière and if you are a second-home owner you will also pay both.

In contrast to the other two taxes, however, this one has been going up in many areas.

In fact, it’s connected to the taxe d’habitation cut – local authorities used to benefit from taxe d’habitation, so the phasing out has left many of them short of money. In some areas, they have reacted by raising taxe foncière.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

You can find more about how the tax is calculated, and how to challenge your bill if you think it is excessive, HERE.

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