This week’s tragic bus accident in Żurrieq saw 50 people suffer injuries, leading Mater Dei to issue a call for blood donations. This in turn saw many Maltese people ask a simple question: why can’t gay men donate blood?
To donate blood in Malta, one has to fill out a questionnaire form that includes questions about their lifestyle. Among questions about possible past imprisonments and any recreational drug use, is the following question:
“(For men) Did you ever engage in sexual contact with men?”
“The present lifetime ban is unnecessary and not based on any scientific studies or advice,” said Mark Grech from Malta Gay Rights Movement. “We want to change the whole debate to one based on risk. Heterosexual donors can commit risky behaviour as well, so from the point of view of equality, we feel that a change is needed.”
Malta’s ban is echoed in other countries
In many countries, a gay man who tries to donate blood will be deferred – even if their blood is viable for medical use – for months, years, or even indefinitely.
In Europe, only five countries defer people based on risky sexual behaviour and not on their sexual orientation; Italy, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Spain.
Other countries – including the UK – still have a ban on gay men donating blood.
Cyrus Engerer, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the EU, said that the giving of blood should be regulated by one’s sexual activity, and not by their sexual orientation.
He pointed to the Labour Party electoral pledge that discrimination against LGBTIQ people when it comes to donating blood would be removed, and said he hoped that this would come into play as soon as possible.
And he wasn’t the only person asking about the policy
If a gay man is not promiscuous and is suitably tested, there should be no reason that he cannot give blood. As the current situation stands, gay men specifically are being singled out – lesbians can still donate blood.
“Certainly, from a scientific point of view, this is totally not right,” said Mark.
“A lot of other countries have found that with improved testing techniques, they are able to provide windows of risk, and some countries that had lifetime bans for gay men have now opted those down to six months or a year. We think it’s time for that to happen in Malta too.”
Lovin Malta reached out to the Ministry of Health with a set of questions on the matter, but had yet to receive a reply at the time of publishing.