France Will Ease Blood Donation Restrictions on Gay and Bi Men

The change is said to be the first step in an attempt to treat men who have sex with men the same as any other donor.

The French government has announced it will lower restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

Men who have had sex with men within the past year have not been able to donate blood since 2016, when a total ban, instituted in 1983, was lifted. That deferment period will now go down to four months, state-owned France 24 reports.

The announcement comes one month after LGBTQ rights groups filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging discrimination, and will be implemented on February 1, 2020.

The health ministry said the decision was based on medical advancements and the latest scientific evidence on HIV/AIDS. It also said the changes will act as a "first step" in plans to do away with the waiting period altogether by 2022, pending an evaluation of potential risks.

In 2017, the UK government announced it would lower its deferral period to three months, due to new testing systems being deemed sufficiently quick and accurate in detecting HIV.

In the United States, men who have had sex with men within the past 12 months are not allowed to donate blood, which has been the case since 2015, when a lifetime ban was lifted.

"Today’s blood screening technology detects HIV within nine to 14 days of exposure with near-perfect sensitivity," noted Dr. C. Nicholas Cuneo, in an article for the Los Angeles Times.

"Advances in research on HIV transmission also have provided highly reliable methods for determining if someone is at risk of recent infection based on their behaviors, not sexual orientation. A patient’s chance of getting HIV from a blood transfusion in the United States today is 1 in 1.5 million."