Allowing blood donations from gay, bisexual and trans* people
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
Even today, gay, bisexual men and trans* people are de facto not allowed to donate blood in Germany. The requirements of the German Medical Association’s “Guidelines on Hemotherapy” state that “individuals whose sexual behaviour carries a significantly increased risk for the transmission of severe blood-borne infectious diseases such as HBV, HCV or HIV compared to the general population” may not donate blood for twelve months.
This includes “heterosexual individuals with sexual risk behaviours such as sexual intercourse with frequently changing partners, individuals who offer sexual intercourse for money or other benefits (such as drugs) (male and female sex workers), men who have sexual intercourse with men (MSM) and transsexual individuals with sexual risk behaviours.”
While heterosexual individuals are only required to defer their blood donations for one year if they frequently change sexual partners, the deferral period for gay and bisexual men as well as trans* people (who are legally – still – considered men and to be having sex with men) applies without exception.
WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO US?
As a foundation for more equal opportunities for LGBT*IQ in the workplace, we act as a think tank and advisor for a multitude of companies. They consider themselves responsible for offering their employees an open, diverse work environment that values and supports their individuality and diversity. To that end, they take a stand against prejudice and discrimination – regardless of gender, nationality, ethnic, cultural or social background, religion and beliefs, physical or mental abilities, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.
As part of their responsibilities to society, these same companies regularly offer the opportunity to donate blood on their premises – with employees naturally invited to participate. However, due to the Guidelines on Hemotherapy, this regularly leads to the stigmatisation and exclusion of gay, bisexual and trans* employees, putting companies into the awkward position of having to weigh their responsibilities to society against protecting their employees from discrimination. Should their own employees be openly exposed to discrimination? Should they stop offering blood donations on their premises altogether?
Against this background, German companies have joined forces with PROUT AT WORK in demanding that decision-makers take a clear stand and put an end to discrimination.
HOW CAN WE DO BETTER?
It goes without saying that the health and physical integrity of patients relying on blood donations must be the number one priority. At first glance, the desire to keep blood reserves safe through a targeted selection of donors seems understandable and efficient. However, on closer inspection, it becomes obvious that selecting donors on the basis of their sexuality is currently more based on prejudice than facts.
There are more efficient ways of ensuring the safety of blood reserves than drawing conclusions about risk awareness based on sexual orientation
Targeted interviews with donors – regardless of their sexual orientation – would make it possible to paint a clearer picture of individual sexual behaviour. Questions about monogamous relationships, the last change of sexual partners and practicing safer sex would then form the basis for selecting potential donors based on facts rather than assumptions.
The deferral period of twelve months could also be reduced without forfeiting the safety of the blood supply. Other countries with high health standards demonstrate that the imperative of safety can also be achieved with a shorter deferral period. Our position paper lists a number of examples of how other countries handle this.
In particular in times in which securing the blood supply increasingly becomes a challenge, we believe expanding the donor pool is a goal-oriented solution. But it’s not just efficiency that should be paramount here – first and foremost, this is about humanity. Solid strategies are based on facts, not prejudice.
- We demand a modernisation of the blood donation guidelines that includes a clear stand against stigmatisation and for inclusion.
- We demand that the German Medical Association and other responsible actors change the Guidelines on Hemotherapy to end the exclusion of gay and bisexual men and trans* individuals.
- It is possible to reconcile the safety of the blood supply with the aspiration of freedom from discrimination. Other countries have already demonstrated this – it’s time for Germany to follow suit.
Fifteen companies have followed our call to end the discrimination of sexual minorities with regards to blood donations and signed the position paper. Thank you for your support!
UPDATE NOVEMBER 11, 2020
Auch wenn in Zeiten von Corona vieles still zu stehen scheint – es kommt wieder Bewegung in die Diskussion darum, ob und unter welchen Umständen schwule und bisexuelle Männer und trans* Personen auch weiterhin von der Möglichkeit Blut zu spenden, ausgeschlossen werden oder nicht.
Gerade während der Covid-19 Pandemie geht der Vorrat an Blutkonserven stark zurück und Spenden werden dringend benötigt. Umso aktueller und dringender ist die Frage, warum homo- und bisexuelle Männer und trans* Personen durch die derzeitige Rückstellungsfrist der Spende von einem Jahr, nach dem letzten Geschlechtsverkehr, de facto vom Blutspenden ausgeschlossen sind.
Kürzlich sind Vertreter_innen des Paul-Ehrlich-Instituts und der Bundesärztekammer zusammengekommen, um über die Richtlinie Hämotherapie und unter anderem eine mögliche Verkürzung der Rückstellung von schwulen und bisexuellen Männern und trans* Personen zu beraten. Ergebnisse dieses Treffens sind leider noch nicht öffentlich – das hindert uns allerdings nicht daran, erneut auf unsere Forderungen aufmerksam zu machen. Die PROUT AT WORK-Foundation hat gestern einen öffentlichen Brief an das Paul-Ehrlich-Institut und die Bundesärztekammer versandt.
Gemeinsam mit weiteren Engagierten setzen wir uns nachhaltig dafür ein, dass Unternehmen in Deutschland ermöglicht wird, ihre gesellschaftliche Verantwortung wahrzunehmen, beispielsweise durch die Unterstützung von Blutspenden auf Firmengeländen, und gleichzeitig ihrem Anspruch und ihrer gesetzlichen Verpflichtung an ein diskriminierungsfreies Arbeitsumfeld nachzukommen.
Update November 12, 2020
The consultations between representatives of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, the German Medical Association and the Ministry of Health on the hemotherapy guideline have not (yet) reached a conclusive result. Therefore, unfortunately, everything remains the same for the time being and the de facto blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men and trans* persons remains in place for the time being.
In a public letter, we had again advocated changing the hemotherapy guideline. A new meeting of the responsible parties is scheduled for January 2021. Even though we had hoped for a different outcome of the consultations, we will continue our commitment and continue to campaign against the discriminatory regulations. Our position paper can be signed by further companies on an ongoing basis.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A STANCE AS WELL?
If you would like to speak out against the discrimination of sexual minorities as well, you will find our position paper here. For more information, feel free to contact us.