In a quiet reversal of stigmatizing legislation, China lifted a law which barred homosexual women from donating blood this week. The original legislation, which was enacted in 1998, prohibited anyone who was sexually active with the same sex from giving blood, CNN reports.
The ban still applies to men who are sexually active with other men. In this regard, China is not far different from the United States and the United Kingdom, which both have prohibitions in place against men donating blood who are sexually active with other men.
The UK demands that sexually active gay men must abstain from sex for 12 months before they can donate blood. The United States is more stringent. The FDA made it clear in 2011 that gay men who have had sex any time since 1977 cannot donate blood.
China was notorious in the 1980′s for denying that HIV and AIDS even existed in the country, and officials were very slow to react to news about the virus. An Argentinian tourist died of the virus in 1985 while visiting the country, and was the first reported case in China.
CNN points out that in recent years China has bumped up efforts to treat and prevent the spread of the disease. Since 2010 foreigners who are HIV positive can enter the country for both long- and short-term stays. Before 2010, HIV-positive visitors were barred from visiting, according to UNAIDS.
LGBT activist, Xian, applauded this week’s decision to allow lesbians to donate blood, stating:
It’s scientific that the policy doesn’t mention homosexual identity but only fences off some who have certain sex behaviors, because AIDS is not caused by one’s homosexual identity but improper sexual behavior.
Xian concluded that the lifting of the ban reinstated some dignity for lesbian people in China. Although the decision is a step in the right direction, activists also feel that LGBT people are still stigmatized, especially gay men. Very few people have championed or discussed LGBT issues in China. One mother, nicknamed Mama Wu, has been one of the few allies willing to step forward for gay rights and acceptance.
Many LGBT people in China face extreme pressure to hide their identity. Suicide rates remain high for many young lesbian and gay people. Media outlets often refrain from promoting or airing any LGBT-themed programs.
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