thursday, 30 april of 2015

EU Court Limits Laws Banning Gay Men from Donating Blood

Gay or bisexual men can be banned from donating blood, but only if there isn’t a less onerous way to protect the health of recipients, the European Union’s highest court ruled Wednesday.

The case at the European Court of Justice concerned France’s lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men. Similar legislation also exists in other EU countries, albeit many states are moving to loosen their restrictions

The ECJ said that scientific evidence that gay men are at a higher risk of carrying serious infectious diseases, such as HIV, can justify a ban in national legislation. In its assessment of the case, it pointed to data submitted to the court showing that the rate of infection with HIV among gay men in France was 200 times greater than that of the heterosexual population between 2003 and 2008. It also added that France had the highest rate of HIV infections among gay men of any country in Europe and Central Asia.

However, the ECJ said the French court that will ultimately rule on the French legislation had to check whether there were better and “less onerous” ways of protecting the recipients of donated blood from infection “other than permanent deferral from blood donation.”

“The principle of proportionality might not be respected” under the current blanket ban, it said.

The ruling comes as many countries—including France—are loosening restrictions on blood donations from gay or bisexual men. French Health Minister Marisol Touraine on Wednesday reiterated plans to change the questionnaire given to potential blood donors to focus on identifying risky behaviors.

“Discrimination of donors based on their sexual orientation is unacceptable and only the security of recipient can justify limitations on blood donation,” Ms. Touraine said. She said a meeting with experts to propose a new questionnaire is foreseen for early May.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced in December it would reverse its lifetime ban, saying that modern screening methods made it unnecessary. However, the FDA still plans to reject blood from men who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

The U.K. made similar changes to its assessment of suitable blood donors in 2011.

ILGA-Europe—the Europe chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association—said Wednesday’s judgment doesn’t go far enough.

“Stigmatization does not equate to proper management of blood donations,” said Sophie Aujean, ILGA-Europe’s senior policy and programs officer. The organization called on the French government to focus exclusively on risky behaviors and not on potential donors’ sexual orientation.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal – April 30, 2015)

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