New health minister to scrap restrictions on blood donations from gay men

Drop in HIV rates, preventative treatments prompt Nitzan Horowitz to repeal provision that many in LGBT community slammed as discriminatory, which only allowed gay men to give blood if they had not had sex with man for at least 12 months

Adir Yanko|
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who was sworn in on Sunday night, plans to completely remove a question regarding intercourse between men from the Magen David Adom blood donation forms, thereby enabling gay men to donate blood regardless of the last time they had sex.
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  • Horowitz, who heads the Meretz party in the new coalition, was the second openly gay member of Knesset in Israel history
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    ניצן הורוביץ
    ניצן הורוביץ
    New Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz
    (Photo: AFP)
    Currently, gay men can only donate blood if they pledge they did not have sex with other men in the 12 months before the donation date.
    Heterosexual men and women, however, could donate blood at any time as long as they met Magen David Adom’s other criteria.
    The restriction was implemented partly due to the higher frequency of HIV cases in the gay community, and because it is easier to contract the virus through anal sex.
    Medical experts have noted, however, that Israel has seen a drop in the overall infection rate of the HIV virus, including among the gay community.
    Members of the community have also condemned the measure as discriminatory.
    This is not the first time that Israel has considered abolishing the ban on blood donations from the gay community.
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    תרומות דם לפצועים באסון הר מירון בכיכר רבין בתל אביב
    תרומות דם לפצועים באסון הר מירון בכיכר רבין בתל אביב
    Israelis donating blood in Tel Aviv in May
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    In 2013, then-health minister Yael German of Yesh Atid sought a change in the provision, which at the time prohibited all men who have had sex with other men to from giving blood.
    German set up a special committee on the issue that eventually changed the provision to the 12-month caveat and repealed the ban on members of the Ethiopian community from donating blood.
    British people are still unable to give blood in Israel due to the outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the 1980s.
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    מתגייסים למען איציק סעידיאן
    מתגייסים למען איציק סעידיאן
    Israeli blood donation kits
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Israel saw a spike in HIV infections in 2017-2018, but the prevalence of the virus dropped in 2019, with a decline of more than 10% in infections across all sectors of the population, including the gay community.
    One reason for the decline is the now-common use of a drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is taken daily by people considered high risk to prevent the spread of the virus.
    Another reason for the decrease in HIV infections is the use of drug treatment for people who test positive for the virus. The treatment begins immediately after diagnosis and reduces the viral load in the blood to rates that do not allow the virus to be transmitted.
    Israel has long touted its gay-friendly policies, celebrating Pride Month with parades in multiple cities, including its world-famous event in Tel Aviv that draws tens of thousands of people from all over the world.
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    מצעד הגאווה תל אביב
    מצעד הגאווה תל אביב
    Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade in 2019
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Tel Aviv said last week that its Pride Parade would take place on June 25, after last years event was cancelled due to coronavirus. Israel has largely lifted all pandemic-related restrictions as infection rates plummeted due to the national mass vaccination program.
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