Health Minister Yael German has ordered her staff to review a section in Israel's
questionnaire which asks male donors whether they had sex with other men since 1977.
An advisory committee on blood transfusion will convene after Passover to discuss the matter. It will hear from medical professional as well as from leaders of the gay community before deciding whether to change the clause.
In Israel, as in most countries, blood donations from gay men are rejected due to the high rate of HIV
infection among gay men.
"Men who have sex with other men have better chances of being infected with blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis," says Prof. Ayelet Shenhar, the Magen David Adom's blood services director. "We seek to protect the health of both blood donors and blood receivers."
In the 1980s, blood services in many countries banned men who engaged in oral or anal sex with other men to donate blood. A small number of nations allowed them to donate blood several months after their last sexual encounter with another man.
Gay men aren't allowed to donate blood (Photo: Liquid Library)
South Africa, for example, allowed gay men to donate blood six months after their last sexual contact; Australia, Sweden and Japan – 12 months later and New Zealand – five years later.
The change in policy stems not only from the need to expand the blood bank but from progress in lab testing which significantly reduced the chances of HIV transmittance.
Most recently, Britain
announced it will consider allowing gay men to donate blood after a study revealed that British homosexuals already do so, despite the ban. It should be noted that in Israel, blood portions donated by men who declared their gay sexual orientation is destroyed.
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