Harris Billings, Staff Writer
November 20, 2015
Marisol Touraine, France’s minister of social affairs, health and women’s rights announced on Nov. 4 that France is lifting its three-decade-long ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
“Giving one’s blood is an act of generosity and of civic responsibility that cannot be conditioned by sexual orientation,” said Touraine in an official statement.
This coming spring, men who have sex with men will be allowed to donate blood for the first time since 1983.
Well, sort of.
Only men who have not been sexually active with other men 12 months prior to donating blood will be allowed to so, and only men who have had a single partner at least four months prior to donation will be allowed to donate plasma.
In a year, officials will decrease this deferral period to match those for heterosexual men only if studies show there is no increased health risk to the public.
In America, however, the same ban is still in place.
“It’s pretty much unfounded in science,” said junior Colin Nollet. “There is nothing that really says there is something with gay and bi men’s blood.
“It’s just institutionalized prejudice.”
These bans originated in the 1980s and were a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. These bans were seen as necessary because testing for HIV was slow and inaccurate.
With a blood drive coming to our campus next month, this has become especially relevant.
“Giving blood gives a sense of purpose and belonging to a community because it makes you feel like you are giving back,” said Nora Prokosch, junior and former coordinator for Project Community, a volunteer program led by students that organizes the blood drive every year.
“You know your blood will be given to someone who really needs it.”
Under these regulations, however, men who have sex with men are unable to give back to their communities in such a way.
“It refuses an entire pool of healthy blood-donating individuals,” said Nollet. “In simple words, it’s bulls—.”
There have been proposals for lifting this lifetime ban in America, but men would still have to have to completely abstain from sex with other men for an entire year prior to donation.
Many consider this still deeply rooted in prejudice towards gay and bisexual men, rather than focused on the specific behaviors that would make anyone’s blood unsuited for donation.
“This ban is perpetuating homophobia in America,” said Julia Tyson, sophomore and president of Guilford PRIDE. “It is spreading stereotypes about gay and bi men that are incorrect and diminishing a diverse and valuable group of people to simply their sexuality.
“A person should not be defined by who they sleep with, and this ban makes it seem like that’s ok.”
At the moment, it is unclear as to how France’s policy towards this issue will change after this first phase, or whether or not America will follow its example.