These and five other recommendations were presented to the Assistant Secretary of State and Health, António Lacerda Sales, and the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, Rosa Monteiro, during a hearing at the request of ILGA Portugal (Intervention Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex) and the GAT after both the Directorate-General of Health (DGS) and the Portuguese Institute of Blood and Transplantation (IPST) have admitted that it is necessary to clarify the rule on the exclusion of blood donors because of risky sexual behaviour.
At the hearing, which took place on 4 March, ILGA and GAT defended “the explicit abolition of any criteria or time limits for the exclusion of donors based on their sexual orientation - real or perceived” and the “unequivocal clarification of objective eligibility criteria and their public communication”, both immediately.
Within one month they call for a review of the information in the medical records of donors who have been permanently or temporarily excluded from donation because of their sexual orientation.
On the other hand, they propose that a national awareness campaign be created on risk behaviours and eligibility criteria for blood donation, that synergies be made between health authorities and civil society organisations for training on non-discriminatory behaviours and practices among health professionals, as well as for the revision of the criteria evaluation manual that serves as guidance for the work of IPST technicians, all within two months.
Finally, they want there to be a “commitment to the production of scientific evidence” to demonstrate whether or not a “case-by-case assessment can be made for sex workers and people who use injectable and inhalable drugs”, for which they give a deadline of one year.
The hearing with the two secretaries of state, although requested longer ago, comes after the Ministry of Health announced 1 March, the creation of a working group to review, within a week, the 2016 standard that defines the criteria for exclusion of blood donors for risky sexual behaviour.
According to the two organisations, since the entry into force of standard 009/2016 - revised in 2017 - that “there have been systematic reports of discrimination against gay and bisexual blood donors” who are refused donation after assuming they have sex with men.
The controversy arose following the case of a man who reported having been discriminated against when he tried to give blood on 23 January, at the IPST fixed donation station in Lisbon, after this body had made an appeal for donation.
The situation happened to Bruno Gomes d’Almeida who, after three hours in line and another hour waiting in triage, was confronted with several questions that assumed he had partners. When he made a point of correcting and assuming that he had a partner, he heard the answer that “then he cannot donate blood” and that “men who have sex with men cannot donate blood”.
Later, Lusa reported that an IPST doctor wrote by email that “men who have sex with men are prevented from giving blood”, arguing that “90 percent of HIV-positive cases [identified] in blood donations are from men who have sex with men and who omitted it in the clinical screening”.
On 2 March, the IPST announced it had opened three processes of enquiry into professionals for alleged discriminatory practices in blood donation by homosexual men, one concerning the doctor who gave the answer by mail and the others to the professionals who did the screening of Bruno Gomes d’Almeida.
Calls to exclude sexual orientation as a barrier to giving blood
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