German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced that specific measures for homosexual, bisexual and transgender blood donors are to be rectified. Advocates have argued that gender identity or sexual orientation should not be criteria for excluding someone from the donation bank or grounds for advancing the process. Lauterbach, a German town, will see a new change to their transfusion law for blood donation offered by the Federal Health Minister.
The law will take full effect on April 1, 2023. The German Medical Association has four months for the new guideline to be ready in agreement with the State Paul-Ehrlich-Institute which is a senior federal authority reporting to the Federal Ministry of Health. It is responsible for the research, assessment, and marketing authorisation of biomedicines for human use and immunological veterinary medicinal products. Its remit also includes the authorisation of clinical trials and pharmacovigilance.
The amended legislation will ease many worries that health professionals had regarding the shortage of blood products. According to a recent report by German health authorities, blood donations in the medium term are not guaranteed, young people are donating less and less.
There is a shortage of the donor bank, about 90% of people who are eligible to donate blood are not donors according to WHO. Excluding or restricting members of the LGBT+ community seems counterintuitive, it does help to alleviate the problem.
As a protective measure, Germany did not allow homosexuals to be blood donors until 2017. They claimed that there was a higher probability of people receiving blood from people practicing homosexuality to contract diseases from their blood. In the same year, one of the regulations was amended and decided that only those who had had sex with other men within the last 12 months would be excluded from donating blood.
The Federal Chamber of Physicians has now changed this period to 4 months, provided that the sex relation was not with different partners. The four-month abstention from blood donation for heterosexual men, for example, only happens if the blood donor admits to having relations with different partners regurlarly, according to Reuters.
Other countries such as Austria, Canada and the United States have also announced changes in their blood donation system to avoid discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In Austria, the new regulations put everyone on equal footing. Going forward, heterosexual and cisgender people, as well as LGBTQ+ folks, will only be able to donate if it has been longer than three months since they’ve last had intercourse.
The precautions for making a blood donation are numerous. Many situations can exclude a person from the donation bank such as a recent tattoo or piercing, a recent surgical operation and having a history of chronic disease that affects the kidneys, lungs or digestive system. Situations where people have traveled to a country with a high risk of contracting malaria are required to wait a period before donating.
These precautions regarding people’s medical history are essential and indispensable for the safety of those who will receive the blood bag, since they are possible risks of greater contamination. However, how can the sexual orientation of a donor prove the existence of a real risk? Minister Lauterbach said that there can be no veiled prejudice against homosexuals and that "whether someone can become a blood donor is a question of risk behaviour, not sexual orientation”.
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