Israel is to lift current restrictions which ban gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
Israel’s openly gay health minister Nitzan Horowitz made the announcement today (August 19). “Discrimination against gays in blood donation is over,” he tweeted.
Under the current rules, gay and bisexual men can only donate blood if they haven’t had sex with other men in the past year. A new questionnaire will scrap this policy, instead asking everyone who has had “high-risk sexual relations” to wait three months before donating.
Politicians have been lobbying to change the criteria for years, and made significant progress back in 2014. Horowitz – who, in 2019, became the first openly gay elected leader of an Israeli political party – has seemingly fast-tracked the process since becoming health minister earlier this year.
Israel’s current blood rules are ‘degrading and irrelevant’
“When I entered office, I instructed [the ministry] to remove the degrading and irrelevant questions from the questionnaire,” Horowitz continued, making his feelings clear. “[They are] a remnant of a stereotype that belongs to history.”
“For years we have been trying to get rid of [the ban] and now we have finally succeeded,” he concluded, calling the decision “another historic step for equality for LGBTQ+ people in Israel”.
Blood bans specifically targeting gay and bisexual men specifically were first introduced back in 1980. It was the height of the AIDS crisis, and homophobic stigma around the virus was rampant. Back then, same-sex intercourse between men meant a lifetime ban.
Activists have fought for decades to eradicate homophobic stigma. As a result, some countries have modified or lifted the restrictions, including the UK, which finally did so earlier this year.
After delays due to staffing and training issues, Northern Ireland recently followed suit. New guidelines stipulate “men who have been in a same-sex relationship with one partner for more than three months are now able to donate,” reported RTE.
These changes are a glimmer of hope for LGBTQ+ activists still fighting to tackle stigma. To quote Horowitz: “There is no difference between blood and blood.”
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