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Ban On Blood Donations By Gay People

Context:

After a member of the transgender community, moved the Supreme Court seeking to strike down the prohibition on gay and transgender people donating blood in the country, the Centre justified their exclusion by asserting that their inclusion in the “at-risk” category for HIV, Hepatitis B, or C infections is premised on scientific evidence.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the guidelines which restrict gay and transgender people from donating blood in India?
  2. International Rules for Blood Donation by Gay and Transgender People

What are the guidelines which restrict gay and transgender people from donating blood in India?

  • The ban on blood donations by gay people was introduced in the 1980s — when information available on the detection and transmission of HIV/AIDS was much less than today.
  • The ban applied to all sexually active gay men, as well as sexually active bisexual men and transgender women who had sex with men.
  • In India, clause 12 of the ‘Guidelines for Blood Donor Selection & Blood Donor Referral, 2017’ mandates the donor to be free from diseases that are transmissible by blood transfusion, and not “at risk for HIV, Hepatitis B or C infections,” such as transgender, gay people, and female sex workers among others.
  • The fitness of the individual for blood donation is determined by the medical officer.
  • Moreover, another clause still permanently defers those “at risk for HIV infection”, including gay and transgender people, from donating blood in the country.
  • Issued by the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) and the National Aids Control Organisation in October 2017, these guidelines were approved in an attempt to bring in a Blood Transfusion Service which offers a “safe, sufficient and timely supply of blood and blood components to those in need”.
  • Singh, in his plea, had challenged the constitutional validity of these clauses, stating that they violate “Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India to the extent they exclude transgender persons, men having sex with men and female sex workers from being blood donors”.

International Rules for Blood Donation by Gay and Transgender People

United States
  • FDA introduced a deferral period of a year for gay and transgender men in 2015
  • In 2020, the deferral period was reduced to three months due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • FDA proposed guidelines to ease restrictions on gay and transgender people from donating blood in 2023
  • Proposal eliminates time-based deferrals for MSM and women who have sex with MSM
  • Donor questionnaire will be revised to ask all prospective donors about new or multiple sexual partners in the past three months
United Kingdom
  • NHS Blood and Transplant assesses eligibility based solely on individual experiences
  • All donors asked if they have had a new sexual partner or multiple partners in the last 3 months
  • Anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or multiple partners in the last three months cannot give blood at that time
Canada
  • Donor selection criteria excluded MSM in the 1980s
  • In 2022, Health Canada approved and implemented the use of sexual behaviour-based screening criteria for all donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation
  • Deferral period has been reduced from five years to three months
Other Countries
  • Countries such as the Netherlands, Israel, Argentina, France, Greece, and Germany have moved away from restricting specific groups from donating blood
  • Australia imposes restrictions for gay and bisexual men if their sexual abstinence period is less than three months
  • Czech Republic and Switzerland have a deferral period of a year, whereas Denmark, Estonia, and Finland have a deferral period of four months for MSM and female sex partners of MSM
  • Belgium will reduce the deferral period for MSM to four months from July 1, 2023
  • India
  • Court case over exclusion of gay and transgender people from donating blood is ongoing
  • Petitioner argues exclusion is arbitrary and discriminatory, while the government argues it falls within the ambit of public health

Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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