Homosexual blood ban to continue

Medical ethics agency says that risk of HIV-contaminated blood is still too strong

31 March 2015

FEARS of contaminated blood have led the bioethics agency to continue the ban on homosexuals donating blood.

The Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique (CCNE) said there was still a risk of a patient receiving HIV-contaminated blood.
President Prof Jean-Claude Ameisen said that further information campaigns to reduce at-risk behaviour and investigations – particularly of countries where the ban had been lifted - were needed.

Gay rights groups have long campaigned for an end to a ban they called “discrimination” and Stéphanie Nicot, of Fédération LGBT, said the decision was “absurd” and “disturbing”.

She told L’Obs: “It is risky behaviour that should lead to a ban, and even then temporary, not the fact that one is homosexual or that one had homosexual relations 20 years ago.”

Prof Ameisen told Le Monde that CCNE was a health agency and should not be involved in a “societal” debate.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine had said in 2012 that she wanted to look again at the ban but reversed her position later saying she could do nothing without an “absolute guarantee” that it would not increase risks.

However, she had said on March 17 that she planned to modify the pre-donation questionnaire so that gay males, who had a stronger prevalence of HIV infection, were not specifically excluded.

Prof Ameisen told Le Monde that there was a question over the reliability of responses to a questionnaire and that the decision should be made by a doctor after a discussion about the patient’s exposure to risk.

The CCNE said statistics had shown one contamination for every 2.5million blood donations and Prof Ameisen said the last case was 13 years ago. However, it said that if the ban was listed the best possible case would be that the risk was unchanged – in the worst case it would be 3.6 times higher.

Statistics show the number of people with HIC is 65 times higher for male homosexuals than for male heterosexuals and that the number of new infections registered each year for this group is 200 times higher.

The CCNE added that blood tests were not reliable as there was a 12-day period where the infection could not be identified.

In the UK, the gay blood donation ban was lifted in 2011 with a 12-month restriction after male gay sex. France still maintains a blood donation ban on people who lived in Britain during the mad cow disease problems during the 1980s. America bans people who lived in France during the same period.
Photo: Richard Villalon - Fotolia.com

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