Gays can donate blood after all - but under conditions

Homosexuals will be able to donate blood in the near future, at least under certain conditions. It should not be people's sexual orientation but their sexual behaviour that determines whether or not a person is suitable to give blood, the Health Department argues.

Until now, homosexuals were excluded from donating blood for life. Health Minister Maggie De Block has received the go-ahead from federal key ministers now to end this situation. "Our priority for blood donation is the safety of the patient who needs a transfusion. In this respect, sexual risk behaviour should be the determining factor rather than someone's sexual orientation", explains De Block (Flemish liberal).

Anyone displaying sexual risk behaviour that may cause him or her to get an STD, will be excluded from blood donation for a year. This could be: sex between two men, paid sex, or sex with a partner who takes drugs using needles. In practice, gay men can only donate blood of they haven't had sex for a year. It doesn't help if they have steady partner.

Research has shown that about 1 in 20 gay men are carrying the HIV. For other men, this is 1 in 5,000. The Health Department counts on people's honesty when these complete the questionnaire.