EU Blood-Donor Bans Must Be Linked to Risk

     (CN) – EU states can ban gay men from donating blood where there is a strong link between same-sex relations and HIV in that state, the European Court of Justice ruled.
     In 2009, a doctor with France’s blood bank refused to let Geoffrey Leger donate blood after the man admitted to having had sexual relations with other men. French law permanently excludes blood donations from gay men.
     Leger challenged the law before the Strasbourg administrative court, which asked the European high court whether a permanent ban complied with EU law.
     Veering from a position taken by a court adviser this past year – who found that France’s ban was worded too broadly – the European Court of Justice said Wednesday that each member state has to decide for itself whether a strong link between men having sex with other men and HIV transmissions exists in the state before putting a permanent ban on donations from gay men in place.
     The Luxembourg-based court noted that in France, nearly all new HIV infections between 2003 and 2008 came from sexual relations – with half of those infections involving men who had sex with other men. In the same period, gay and bisexual men had an infection rate 200 times greater than the heterosexual population in France, the court said.
     In fact, gay and bisexual men in France have the highest HIV rates in all of Europe and central Asia, the court added. So the Strasbourg court must determine whether these facts – assuming they are still relevant – justify France’s ban blood donations from gay men.
     However, the court also noted that a permanent ban runs afoul of the EU’s principle against sexual-orientation discrimination. To avoid that, the court suggested that France could screen blood for HIV rather than lay down a blanket ban on donations from gay and bisexual men.
     In the absence of testing, the EU high court tasked the court in Strasbourg with figuring out whether questionnaires or interviews might be a “less onerous method of ensuring a high level of health protection for recipients other than permanent deferral from blood donation,” according to the 7-page ruling.

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