Greece has lifted its decades-long ban on queer men donating blood following the signing of a ministerial decree on Monday in the Hellenic Parliament.

According to the Greek City Times, Health Minister Thanos Plevris and Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga were the signatories.

The ministerial decree requires prospective blood donors to fill in a form. This new document no longer includes a prohibition on gay and bisexual men donating blood due to having same-sex sexual relations.

The reform will take effect once it is published in the Government Gazette, Greece’s legal newspaper containing new laws and decrees.

Plevris became the health minister on August 31 last year.

Change Comes Amid Increased Demand for Blood Worldwide

Upon taking office he requested the National Blood Transfusion Center president consider changing the rules related to blood donations “that do not meet the current medical data.” In doing this, he specifically referred to the ban on queer men donating blood.

Men who have same-sex sexual relations in Greece were banned from donating blood in 1977. This occurred in many countries during the 1980s, around the time the HIV/AIDs epidemic started.

The change has come amid increased demand for blood donations worldwide. The global blood supply has faced unprecedented pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other European countries that have lifted restrictions on queer blood donations have been France in 2015, and Hungary in 2020. The Netherlands gradually eased restrictions on queer blood donations between 2015 and 2021. Germany started doing the same last year.

The US eased restrictions in 2020, while England, Scotland, and Wales followed suit last June. Canada lifted its ban back in 2013.

Israel lifted restrictions last year, and Argentina did so in 2015.

Calls For Change in Australia

In October last year, SBS News and Guardian Australia reported on Australian LGBTQI campaigners urging the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to allow queer men to donate blood.

“Under Australian policy, gay men or trans women who have sex with men are unable to donate blood if their sexual abstinence period is less than three months,” Guardian Australia reported. “That period was reduced by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood from 12 months earlier [in 2021].”

Spokesperson Rodney Croome from Just.Equal Australia, who has been campaigning for the past 15 years to end these restrictions, told Guardian Australia that LGBTQI Australians have found the ban “outdated, stigmatising, and counterproductive” over the decades.

“Now we have clear international evidence and precedents that point Australia in the direction it must go,” he said.

Just.Equal Australia has initiated a petition entitled Medical Science and international experience show our blood is safe. It’s aimed at both the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service and the TGA.

It calls on these organisations to “institute a new donor policy that screens potential donors for their individual risk, not the gender of their sexual partner.”

It also states, “The current policy, imposing an abstinence period on gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming Australians who have sex with men, limits the supply of safe blood, and stigmatises gay, bi, trans and non-binary people as a threat to public health.”

Red Cross Lifeblood cited the latest Australian data and concluded there was still a “much higher risk” of queer men donating infected blood.

This was in contrast to Just.Equal Australia‘s Dr Sharon Dane. She said the evidence and statistical modelling clearly indicated Australia “could safely abandon its current model.” She also told SBS News, Australia “was the first country to remove a lifetime ban on donations from people who are deemed to be ‘men who have sex with men’.”

The TGA should be “aware of the petition” and “reviewing the report commissioned by Just.Equal.” It will “consider any submission from a sponsor to change its approach to the deferral period, based on data to support the safety of a change.”

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