Sweden could drop gay blood ban

Gay men in Sweden may soon be allowed to give blood, when rules are revised in November.

As in most other countries, men are banned from giving blood if they have ever had sex with another man. The rule was introduced to prevent the spread of HIV.

“I can confirm that we are reviewing the rule, but I cannot confirm the outcome yet,” Anders Tegnell, head of the unit for infectious disease prevention at Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, told The Local.

The board currently recommends that blood banks refuse to accept blood from any man who has ever had sex with another man.

The board’s recommendations do not, however, define what constitutes sex between men. Tegnell says that coming up with a definition might be one of the outcomes of the review.

“The general thinking now is to be consistent, and any kind of people whose behaviour is risky have to be in quarantine. So we look at gay men in the same way as we look at people who have been to areas with high HIV rates, such as South America.”

The current recommendations are not technically binding on blood banks, but are followed throughout Sweden. The new code, to be published in November, will be legally binding. Tegnell says the review will only consider the interests of blood recipients.

“There is no such thing as the right to give blood. The only consideration is whether the blood supply is safe,” he said.

Sweden’s health minister Ylva Johansson welcomed the suggestion that the rules might change.

“It is unfortunate to define homosexual men in general as a risk group,” she said.

Many other countries have similar rules to Sweden on blood donations from gay men.

The United States bans donations from anyone man who has had sex with another man since 1977, although the American Red Cross has called for a review of the policy.

Other countries, including Spain and Italy do not ban blood donations from sexually active gay men. Australia only bans men who have had gay sex in the preceding twelve months.