The Health Ministry on Thursday announced it will drop all current restrictions on gay men donating blood, which have stirred outrage in the LGBTQ community in the past.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced the plan in a press conference on Thursday morning, saying the new rule will go into effect on October 1.
According to current Israeli law, gay men can only donate blood if they had not engaged in sexual intercourse with other men in at least 12 months prior to the donation. Heterosexual men and women, meanwhile, can donate blood at any time as long as they meet Magen David Adom’s basic criteria.
As per Horowitz’s plan, the clause regarding sex intercourse between two men will be removed, and will be replaced with a clause which does not differentiate between gender or sexual orientation.
According to the new rule, those wishing to donate blood will have to wait three months in case they have engaged in “high-risk sex with a new partner or multiple partners.”
While the restriction on blood donations from gay men was originally implemented due to relatively high rates of HIV infections within the gay community, the Health Ministry said the change was made following a recommendation by the ministry's advisory committee on transfusion medicine.
It is also in line with changes in blood donation policies adopted in recent years by other countries around the world.
"That’s it, the discrimination against gay men in blood donations is over,” said Horowitz, himself an openly gay man and the second openly gay member of Knesset in Israel's history.
“When I took the office, I instructed the removal of these degrading and irrelevant questions from the blood donation questionnaire. It was a remnant of a stereotype that belongs to history. For years we have tried to get rid of it and now we have finally succeeded. There is no difference between blood. It is another historic step for equality for LGBTQ people in Israel.”
Israel saw a spike in HIV infections in 2017-2018, which 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 as a preventative measure by people considered to be at high-risk to HIV exposure.
Another reason for the decrease in HIV infections is the use of new drugs to treat 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.