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Mexico: Ban on gay, bisexual blood donors reportedly lifted

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Blog site Blabbeando is reporting that new regulations that came into effect Dec 25 in Mexico remove a two-decade ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

Previously, health regulations explicitly banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood based on their "practices" and their "increased probability of acquiring HIV or hepatitis infection," according to the report. The new regulations instead ban blood donations from people with HIV or hepatitis and their partners and people who engage in "risky sexual practices," regardless of their sexual identity.

Risky sexual practices are defined as those that may include "contact or exchange of blood, sexual secretions or other bodily secretions between someone who might have a transmittable disease and areas of another person's body through which an infectious agent might be able to penetrate." 

"From now on, medical/scientific criteria will be used to identify pathogens in the blood and the focus will be turned to risky behaviors rather than social groups," Mexico's National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) says in a statement hailing the changes.

"In making these discriminatory distinctions, the [previous] norm explicitly violated the prohibition against discrimination present in the Constitution and the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, as well as Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 26 of the International Civil and Political Rights Treaty, among other international instruments of law, which establish that every person is equal before the law regardless of any condition."

Britain lifted its lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men in November last year. A review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (Sabto) led to the decision that men who have not had homosexual sex within the past year will be able to donate if they meet certain other criteria, according to The Guardian, which says the recommendation was accepted by the health ministers in England, Scotland and Wales. But the Department of Health adds that any man who has had anal or oral sex with another man in the past 12 months, with or without a condom, will still not be eligible to donate blood.

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and its counterpart, Héma-Québec, have committed only to a review of the current ban in Canada. A November 2011 report in Xtra noted that the CBS board of directors had approved a motion to reexamine its policy to reduce the ban to between five and 10 years. 

Since 1983, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines have disqualified men who have ever had sex with men from donating blood. An Atlantic feature notes, however, that the policy has been "heavily criticized recently for misrepresenting 21st century scientific realities; and the American Red Cross, alongside senators, universities and other organizations, have called for an updated policy that reflects the realities of modern science and technology." 

According to a South Florida Gay News report, Argentina's Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would make it legal for gay and lesbians to donate blood. The measure, which is scheduled for debate in the Senate in 2013, would eliminate certain questions used by clinics and hospitals that require potential blood donors to divulge their sexual orientation, Gay Star News says. "One of the questions asks the potential donor if they've had sexual relations with someone of the same sex in the past year; if the answer is affirmative, the donor is not permitted to continue with the donating process."

In addition to the news about the lifting of the gay blood ban, Mexico also recently made headlines when its Supreme Court delivered a unanimous Dec 5 ruling in favour of three gay couples seeking to marry in the state of Oaxaca, potentially opening the door for same-sex couples to marry nationwide.

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