It’s news that has gone no way towards calming the howls of discrimination and bias.
After all the fuss over gay men being banned from giving blood, a working group – studying the issue for three years – has presented the rule in a different way.
Gay men can give blood, it has assured critics, as long as they are celibate.
Lusa news agency ran the story with the headline “Gay men can give blood” – but then described over eight paragraphs why this has to be fraught with provisos.
Gay men can indeed donate blood, but as most are sexually active, this narrows the field substantially.
Critics complain that the working group has basically spent three years putting a different spin on Portugal’s gay blood donation ban.
As has been reported throughout the media, the ruling is based on the need to safeguard against the “very high prevalence” of HIV/AIDS in the male homosexual community.
For now, Lusa is not able to commit to how long a gay man’s state of celibacy will have to have lasted. It could be six months, it could be a year. The final decision rests with the Portuguese blood donation society and the health service, which will be reporting by the end of October.
Gay men are already banned from giving blood in numerous countries, with many others stipulating a year’s abstinence before they will accept a gay men’s blood.
Isabel Advirta of ILGA, Portugal’s premier LGBT association, claims Portuguese authorities “have opted for excluding men who have relationships with men instead of asking specific questions on practices, different sexual contacts with different associated risks and without evaluating the protection used in these contacts”.
As LGBT associations point out, the ruling appears to be based on the assumption that heterosexual blood donors have exemplary sexual histories, which may not be the case at all.