Blood donation – a worldwide progression in policies for MSM
Since 1977, under the Food and Drugs Allied (FDA) policy, Men having Sex with Men (MSM) are permanently barred from donating blood. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) known as the Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) or the gay plague (in the 1980s) has been a matter of public health safety concern, and with lack of information around the HIV epidemic, the ban on homosexuals to donate blood has since been maintained by the FDA.
However, with more understanding around HIV and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and with technological and medical advancement, public health systems have developed more comprehensive, effective and efficient detection, prevention and treatment methods around HIV. Countries such that, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and other countries have either engaged in a complete lifting on the blood donation ban on homosexuals or have adopted a partial ban through time-deferral.
The policy, in December 2015, changed the decades-old indefinite blood donor deferral policy regarding men who have had sex with men (MSM) to a one-year deferral since the last sexual contact with another man.
After much consultations and research, based on scientific proofs, the FDA has reviewed its policy for blood donation for MSM in December 2015. The policy, changed the decades-old indefinite blood donor deferral policy regarding MSM to a one-year deferral since the last sexual contact with another man.
Mauritius on blood donation for homosexuals
“Are you/were you engaged in homosexual activity?” This question figured on the Donor Health Questionnaire (DHQ) as pre-screening to blood donation in the Republic of Mauritius. Since the passing of the Equal Opportunities Act (2008), changing this complete ban on homosexuals to a partial ban has been the first-ever successful sexual orientation case to find its way at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
After two years of adovacy and conciliation, the verdict fell late 2014 whereby the ban is no longer on homosexuals, but rather on men having anal or oral sex with other men.
“..MSM poses around 7 times lesser risk to blood safety as compared to the general population..”
However, in Mauritius, conservative inferential statistics have shown that MSM poses around 7 times lesser risk to blood safety as compared to the general population, and the complete ban on blood donation for MSM is not justifiable.
In line with expert recommendations and bearing in mind the window period for detecting HIV in seropositive individial, a 6 to 12 months deferral on MSM since their last at risk activity would have been justifiable. With new recommendations from the FDA, another win towards a time-deferral for MSM might well be underway!