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Press Release : World Blood Donor Day
published on 14 June 2023
On this World Blood Donor Day, we note that part of the Belgian population is still unable to donate blood. In Belgium, gay and bisexual men (MSM) are still excluded, without distinction. What we’re raising again today is a social justice issue with far-reaching public health consequences.
At present, Belgium has still not abolished the exclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood. Despite having shortened the required period of sexual abstinence from 12 months to 4 months (as of July 1), and having opened up plasma donation since spring 2022, our country still lags far behind many other European countries that have already abolished this generalized exclusion criterion, opting instead for individual risk assessment.
Moreover, this arbitrary exclusion is largely invalidated by scientific research and statistics. Indeed, if we were to switch to an individual risk analysis, we would admit the vast majority of MSM to blood donation, according to recent American research (1). In this way, the social equality of human beings, whatever their sexual orientation, would no longer be an obstacle to the public health issue represented by blood donation. We would point out that the norm for blood donation in our country is to carry out an individual analysis of risk behaviors before allowing blood donation. In this way, a person who has taken risks is temporarily barred from donating blood for a period of three months. We maintain that there is no scientific reason why this principle should not be applied to the entire population, regardless of sexual orientation.
Today, we expect our political representatives to recognize the urgency of putting an end to what must now be described as unjustified discrimination.
We also expect the Red Cross, Belgium’s main blood transfusion center, to realize that its opposition to any change in donation safety policy is unjust and obsolete, despite the work carried out by the Conseil Supérieur de la Santé (2) , developments in neighboring countries and low stocks.
Finally, all this must be accompanied by ongoing training in the various healthcare sectors on medical issues relating to sexuality and sexual health, as well as information and awareness-raising campaigns aimed at civil society.