A permanent ban on blood donations from homosexual men has finally been lifted in the Netherlands.
But before you celebrate the great news, the policy has been replaced by new restrictions that state gay men may only donate blood if they have not had sex with another man over the last 12 months.
In an interview with broadcaster AT5, LGBT advocate Tanja Ineke found the new policy “very disappointing.” As head of non-profit COC Nederland, Ineke said, “The policy is only of practical importance for bisexual men in long-term monogamous relationships with a woman.”
“I am a staunch supporter of emancipation and equality of people, and at the same time responsible for the safe blood supply in the Netherlands,” said Edith Schippers, the Minister of Health. She insisted the year-long restriction is still necessary to guarantee donated blood is safe for use, adding that her office will continue researching the issue to determine if a shorter moratorium is possible.
Ineke agreed that the security of the blood supply is of the highest priority, but said “the new policy will remain unnecessarily discriminatory. This proposal provides too little, too late.”
Many blood bank officials say AIDS-detection technology has vastly improved since the 1980s. Back then, tests only checked for antibodies to the virus. Now they check for parts of the virus itself.
Earlier this year, the NHS Blood and Transplant noted that 120,000 fewer donors gave blood in 2014/15 compared to ten years before 2004/05. The organization issued an appeal to UK citizens asking for at least 204,000 new donors in order to keep blood stock at a safe level.
Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom maintain similar blood donation policies, Schippers said in her statement.