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Mexico No Longer Bans Gay Men From Donating Blood

Mexico No Longer Bans Gay Men From Donating Blood

Mexico, in a first for any North American country, has repealed its blanket ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, but when will the rest of the world follow?

The repeal, which was passed in August 2012 but came into effect on Christmas day, sees Mexico bring its blood donation regulations into line with current nondiscrimination provisions and human rights laws.

Concern had been raised over the fact that the previous rules had meant that any and all men who in the past had had a sexual encounter with another man (termed men who have sex with men or MSM) were de facto banned.

The new rules make clear that sexual orientation will not be a barrier to blood donation, with risk factors associated with certain practices and conditions being the focus.

The new rule bans people with hepatitis or HIV and their partners from donating blood. Similarly, people who engage in what are termed  ”risky sexual practices” will also be banned, this term being defined as ”contact or exchange of blood, sexual secretions or other bodily secretions between someone who might have a transmittable disease and areas of another person’s body through which an infectious agent might be able to penetrate.”

This would shift the focus from same-sex sexual activity to certain types of high-risk unprotected sexual activity, a distinction which will allow many gay and bisexual men the chance to contribute to blood supplies.

A statement on The National Council to Prevent Discrimination’s website hails the move as a positive step:

In making these discriminatory distinctions, the [previous] norm explicitly violated the prohibition against discrimination present in the Constitution and the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, as well as Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 26 of the International Civil and Political Rights Treaty, among other international instruments of law, which establish that every person is equal before the law regardless of any condition.

The logic of the previous ban, like most other blanket bans in this area, never really stood up to scrutiny.

Effectively, a blanket ban on all MSM treats homosexuality as though it were a high risk activity in and of itself. It takes into account nothing of the protection used, the kind of practices that have been engaged in and whether the individual in question is in a monogamous relationship, all of which are factors that, when stacked right, dramatically cut infection risk.

Furthermore, and to prove the point that such bans are blindly discriminatory, heterosexual men (and women for that matter) are in no way subjected to this kind of treatment despite how “risky” their behavior may have been.

While many nations have realized two things, that a blanket ban is discriminatory and unsupportable, and that blood reserves are constantly low and that all new sources should be considered, they have approached the issue very differently.

The UK, for example, repealed its blanket ban last year, instead instituting a one year deferral period meaning that so long as MSM have not engaged in sex for the past year, they will be eligible. The move was immediately attacked as the dodgy compromise that it is because it still fails to examine the prejudice at the heart of the ban and makes no attempt to shift the focus from sexuality to sexual practices.

The Canadian Blood Service, seeming to follow the UK, has published notice that it intends to amend its blanket ban to a deferral period of between 5-10 years, though commentators have similarly assailed the plans as putting stigma over scientific facts about the health risks.

While Mexico may be the first nation in North America to repeal its ban, Argentina has worked toward doing the same with legislation that was passed by Argentina’s lower chamber due to be examined in Argentina’s Senate over the next few months.

The United States instituted a ban on MSM donating blood in 1977, a ban that a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) committee, despite a wealth of evidence saying that there is minimum risk to blood supplies in repealing the blanket ban in favor of risk-factor controls, voted to keep the ban in 2010, advice the FDA, which regulates blood supply, continues to follow.

However, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry recently attempted a new push to amend America’s blanket ban.

It remains unclear whether such a push would be able to gain momentum, and so for the time being the United States, like many other countries, continues its antiquated practice of treating homosexual relationships as though they are inherently diseased.

 

Related Reading:

Blood Donation Rejected Because Man ‘Looked Gay’

Case Against Northern Ireland’s Gay Blood Ban Can Proceed

HHS Will Look Again at Gay Blood Ban

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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86 comments

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2:30AM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

Bravo mexico!

2:46PM PST on Jan 12, 2013

i didn't even know this still existed. i thought that the blood was checked for certain diseases no matter what the answer to the questions were - afterall, people do lie. i guess when you or a loved one isn't in a particular group that's discriminated against, you have no idea what's going on unless you hear or read about it. with the constant notices of a short blood supply, i don't know why people would be banned from donating.

10:48PM PST on Jan 9, 2013

positive open language

8:41AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

I took great pleasure and satisfaction donating blood here in the U.S. as a young man. When I developed a penicillin allergy, I was refused as I might pass that antigen to someone else. It broke my heart, but I wouldn't lie about that fact and try to give blood anyway.

Then in 1981, I contracted HIV (it was then diagnosed as "viral syndrome, unknown etiology), but didn't learn my serostatus until 1987. Even if I didn't have the penicillin allergy, I would never put someone else at risk. I DO wish there was some way of treating blood which would render the virus inert!

As to Mexico's decision, if I lived there and was still sexually active, I would be concerned for the sake of others from a personal responsibility perspective.

3:47AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

That's great, although I don't understand why the ban was there at all.

1:44AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

@Lynda D 1. Yes the blood is tested, prior and after donating, yes there are standards here, and doctors here know what HIV is dear. 2. Don't worry, NO, none of this blood gets in the US market, first of all blood is not sold here, it is prohibited, and second (and most importantly)the blood is for our use, for transfusions on people in Mexico, and is barely enough to cover the needs, and last don't be ridiculous, NO blood has anything to do with your food and makeup, that is really, really absurd

1:34AM PST on Jan 8, 2013

Woww!! I can't believe many of these comments, especially coming from people on Care2! Believe me, I don't like to make generalisations, but many Americans often end up showing their inherent racism and ignorance.

Ok, let me explain to you about blood donation in Mexico. Mexico has stopped banning homosexual people to initiate the process of blood donation, meaning that not simply because someone says in the application that they are gay, they are dismissed. Of course that doesn't mean that the blood won't be tested like everybody else's blood. If any of you have ever donated blood, you should know first of all you fill an application answering medical questions about you health and sexual practices, you get some measures (weight, blood pressure) and a blood sample is taken from you. This blood is tested and if it is ok for you to donate you proceed to do it. Afterwards the blood you donated GETS TESTED for HIV, Hepatitis, Syphilis and some other diseases. If the blood is infected it is discarded. Donators can get the report of the results in a short time.

So, as you can see, it is the same process as anywhere else, and in this case, it only takes into account the facts, if the blood is clean it doesn't matter whom it is from. That's all. And by the way, just to be clear, anyone can have a disease, heterosexual or not, so the focus must be in the risk practices and the tests, not in the sexual orientations.

@Marlene, then why you care at all?

@Lynda D 1. Yes th

8:21PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

That's great! For us to accomplish that will take many, many years. But good for Mexico!

3:45PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

Blood is Blood. The orientation a person is born with shouldnt make any difference so whats the big deal?

2:41PM PST on Jan 7, 2013

and like i said before, i'm not saying that i'm agreeing with this, i personally don't agree with blood transfusion period, i've seen the other side, but i HATE IGNORANCE!!! like those people who say that mexico lacks of good medical service, U HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN THERE!!

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