Gay men in Malta will be able to donate blood in the coming weeks, but there’s a snag; they’ll only be able to donate if they’ve been sexually abstinent for a year.
“Initially the deferral for MSM (male sex with male) will be of one year,” a spokesperson for Health Minister Chris Fearne told Lovin Malta. “This will be reviewed periodically depending on multiple factors including local epidemiology.”
The blood donation unit recently acquired equipment which makes use of nucleic acid testing, adding another layer of safety to the screening of donated blood to reduce the risk of transfusion transmitted infections, such as HIV.
This is in line with a longstanding demand by the LGBT community, who has warned the current state of play is discriminatory against gay men. However, the initial one-year deferral period has never been publicly announced and has already been criticised by LGBT rights advocate and former Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer.
“Gay men in a monogamous relationship will still not be able to donate blood with these changes,” Engerer said. “At the same time, gay men’s blood will have to go through a different procedure to that of others.”
“A big disappointment as the new procedures that will be introduced will formalise even more discrimination – does this go against our constitution and the amendments brought forward in 2014?”
“In the end, this does not directly affect the gay man who would have donated blood, but those who actually need blood in hospital at a moment when shortages are becoming more frequent.”
Several countries, such as Australia, Sweden and Japan, have introduced a one-year gap between gay sex and blood donation. However, the likes of the United Kingdom and Canada only have a three-month gap while France is set to introduce a four-month gap.