France is for the first time in 30 years allowing gay men to donate blood, but with a major proviso.
The move to lift the gay blood donation ban was first promised in November by Health Minister Marisol Touraine.
She said at the time that donating blood should not be conditional on someone’s “sexual orientation”.
The latest announcement, however, is only a relaxation of the ban and retains a discriminatory deferral period. In order to qualify, gay men and other men who have sex with men will have to be celibate for 12 months for blood donations and four months for plasma donations.
The news was nevertheless welcomed by some LGBT groups. “This is a good sign, which shows that men who have sex with other men are becoming less stigmatised,” Sophie Aujean from ILGA-Europe told France 24.
“A year is a very long time, and will probably mean that a lot of men who have sex with other men will opt out of donating blood because of it. Four months would be more reasonable,” she added.
There are similar one-year sexual activity blood donation deferrals in place for gay men in countries such as Japan, Sweden, the UK and the US.
In South Africa, which is leading the way, there is a general deferral for anyone – gay or straight – who has had a new sexual partner in the previous six months.