Ban on homo- and bisexuals giving blood to be “temporary”

After all the hullabaloo over the policy that gay and bisexual men are not allowed to give blood unless they are celibate, a working group is understood to be about to recommend that the ruling be “temporary, not definite”.

According to Público newspaper today (Monday), the working group’s report has not yet been concluded but the final text has been “generically approved” and recommends that the ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors “should be altered”.

“This recommendation may or may not be accepted by the health ministry, which will receive the definitive version of the report in the next few days,” explains the newspaper.

As the country’s media reported earlier this year, politicians reacted with outrage over the ruling which they claimed was “discriminatory”.

At the time, the president of the Portuguese blood institute (IPST) Hélder Trindade defended the decision, explaining that it had nothing to do with discrimination but was designed to safeguard against the “very high prevalence” of HIV/Aids in the male homosexual community.

Since then, Trindade has changed his tune, telling a debate in June that “Portugal will certainly change, as soon as we have the results of the working group” which was set up as long ago as 2012 to study the whole “discriminatory” issue.

Trindade explained that in UK, for example, homosexual and bisexual men have been authorised to give blood since 2011 “as long as they have been at least 12 months without practising anal sex, with or without a condom”.

Any alteration of the criteria for exclusion would imply a larger universe of blood donors, he agreed, but it would also include a larger number of HIV positive people among potential donors. Thus it would be necessary, in future, to alter triage inquiries to “put questions to donors” that could be considered “delicate”.

Curiously, the working group’s deadline for this long awaited report has been consistently delayed, explains Público.

It was meant to have been ready by June 30. That date was put back to July 31, and here we are already in August and there is still no sign.

“Until Sunday, IPST had not responded to various attempts to make contact over the last few days. The same has happened with the health ministry,” reports the paper, despite the fact that public relations spokesman Miguel Vieira had promised to respond to the series of written questions that Público had supplied.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]