Yael German, Israel’s new minister of health, has instructed a public committee to deliberate the removal of a ban on blood donations from gay men.
In her first move as Israel's new health minister, Yael German instructed the ministry staff today (25 March) to reconsider the ban on accepting blood donations from gay men.
The form filled out by every blood donor in Israel states that men who have had sex with other men are prohibited from donating blood.
People who are HIV positive, used drugs or been exposed to mad-cow disease, among other constraints, are also prohibited from donating blood.
According to the daily Haaretz, German, of the Yesh Atid party ('There is a Future') instructed that after the Passover holiday, an advisory committee would convene to discuss the issue.
Israel’s ban, which is also present in many other countries, has been in effect since 1980. Israel’s emergency services, Magen David Adom (MDA), screens prospective donors through a questionnaire.
In many other countries, including the UK, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, a one-year time frame is enforced for men who have had sex with men, effectively banning gay men, or demanding celibacy from a prospective donor (depending on your view).
In South Africa the time limit is six months, while several countries including Italy, Spain and Mexico have no limitation whatsoever.
The time limit ban, however, applies only to gay sex, whether protected or not, while straight sexual practices are considered by Israel’s health ministry and MDA as a lower risk.
In recent years, an average of four blood samples out of a total of 300,000 donations per year have been found to be infected with HIV. Last year, 13 blood samples were found to be HIV-positive.
Israel's LGBT community has been consistently campaigning for the ban to be listed, saying it amounts to discrimination and sending an offensive message as if gays are more prone to HIV infection, which is clearly not borne out by medical research.
Until now, Israel’s ministry of health has not heeded to the repeated calls and left the clause unchanged.
Shai Doitsh, the chair of the Aguda, one of Israel’s main LGBT advocacy groups, welcomed the decision telling Gay Star News: ‘The first decision of minister Yael German is commendable.
‘The Aguda, which has been invited to testify before the committee, will, of course, demand an end to the discrimination. It increasingly seems "There is a future" and it is certainly more pink. We hope other government colleagues will follow her lead’.
Readers of the Israeli LGBT community Facebook page also welcomed the move: ‘Yael German is an amazing woman! … This is a significant and historical day for the LGBT community in Israel, … where the minister is correcting a flaw and discrimination in Israeli society’, commented Ran Shem Tov.
Yoel Markus Desal also praised the initiative saying it was ‘welcomed. As every organization that collects blood is obliged to screen it, there is no reason for this discrimination against the community.
‘There is no “gay disease” just as much as there is no “straight disease”.
‘We are all human and our blood is equal, no matter what our sexual orientation is, race, ethnicity, religion or any other factor’.