On Tuesday, July 25, Swissmedic, the Swiss institute responsible for monitoring the market for therapeutic products in the country, amended the rules for donating blood, establishing uniform criteria for all individuals. Consequently, everyone will now need to abstain from donating blood for four months after engaging in sexual activity with a new partner, including men who have sex with men.
Prior to 2017, queer men were outright prohibited from donating blood in Switzerland. In 2017, the restrictions were lessened, but they were still required to wait twelve months, four times longer than their heterosexual counterparts, after sexual encounters with new partners before they were eligible to donate blood.
The recent change was prompted by a request from Transfusion CRS Switzerland, an institution linked to the Swiss Red Cross, on December 5, 2022. The request followed a two-year risk assessment study conducted by Transfusion CRS in collaboration with a group of experts. Transfusion CRS Switzerland explained in their official statement that the new rules would be implemented on a national scale by November 1, as it would take a few months for the organization and regional blood transfusion services to apply these changes.
The decision is hailed as a significant stride towards equality, as pointed out by Pink Cross, a Swiss LGBTQ+ rights organization. “From now on, it will be the individual's sexual risk behaviour that determines whether or not they can donate blood. The criteria for donating blood are finally based on scientific rather than ideological criteria.” Roman Heggli, general secretary of Pink Cross stated that “For years, our blood was undesirable … I am delighted that we are finally able to help and save lives.”
However, a distinct rule is in place for those who have had sexual relations with more than two partners within four months: these individuals must wait twelve months before donating blood.
In conclusion, a milestone has been reached in Switzerland, as equal rules have been established for heterosexual and homosexual individuals with respect to blood donation. Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, is now bound by the same rules.
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