The Gay Gift of Blood

Twice in the last few months I had to go to a hospital’s blood bank to donate blood, once for a friend and once for a relative. As I was doing some googling on the topic I stumbled on one, then more and more articles talking about a “Gay Blood Donation Ban” existing in many countries. "wtf?!", I thought.

Turns out this ban has been, and remains an active area of debate today: latest case in point, a few months ago the British government decided to lift the ban on gay men who have not had sex for ten years prior to donating blood, calling the ban discriminatory and considering it a possible breach of the “Equality Act”.

From what I can tell Lebanon seems miles away from this level of debate around discrimination or equality, and for that matter from this kind of health policies. The Lebanese version of the blood donation questionnaire may be intense and exist only in Arabic, but it does not seem to touch explicitly on the gay issue.

The closest it actually gets to the topic, amidst many yes/no questions about current and past medications and conditions, was this one:

إقامة علاقة أو علاقات جنسية متعددة و مشبوهة؟  (Translate: “Did you have numerous and suspicious sexual interaction(s)?”)

As I was filling out the questionnaire I kind of froze on that one…

Were all my recent sexual interactions considered as “suspicious” because as a sexually active gay guy, they were with other men? In fact, what counts as “numerous” interactions? Or, is the question geared more towards safe / protected sex?

Well then, since this all seemed so subjective I ended up going with my own assessment for “numerous” and my own definition of “suspicious”, and candidly checked the “No” box.

I knew that the first thing they’d do before using my blood is to test it for things like HIV and HPV, but I still felt a little bad about lying because I know these diseases have a latency period, that they are more frequent among gay men, and that they are probably the reason behind the gay ban to begin with. Even though I'd tested myself about 6 months earlier, I know I'm never too far away from the “risk zone”.

Digging a little more in the issue I found on their Website that Donner Sang Compter Lebanon is more explicit and more discriminating about the gay issue. It states clearly that you should not give blood if “You have had an unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners” or if “you are a man who has had sex with another man (even if protected)"… some food for thought.

The 24 hours after donating blood are always a bit stressful. Not so much for its physical impact, but because any unknown number appearing on your cell phone could mean bad news from the blood bank’s test results… thank god and my guardian angel the damn phone never rang.
Yorgui Teyrouz’s story at Beirut TED Talks 2011 of how he
came to found Donner Sang Compter in Lebanon was so touching 
it brought tears into my eyes and the whole audience’s.
But it seems that as much as a gay guy would want to be a “hero”, his adherence to the cause cannot go a long way
for the mere fact of being gay. I thought it important to shed light on this issue
when I saw that Donner Sang Compter was doing a fundraiser at the
next C U NXT SAT party at Art Lounge.

-- pic, post by Gib#2


  1. Actually AUH and Bellevue Hospital ask you explicitly also...

  2. If you want to donate for the Lebanese red cross, you have to fill in a form that asks you if you have engaged in gay sex. Discrimination is everywhere!

  3. I don't think it's discriminatory at all. Gay people are at higher risk of HIV infection + the latency period that you mentioned. You can't ask for people to be "politically correct" and egalitarian when other people's health/lives (which you're trying to save) are a risk.

  4. AnonymousMay 08, 2012

    As much as it feels and looks unjust, this mentality is not proper to Lebanon but it is widespread all across the world. In France, it is also forbidden for gay people to actually donate blood. The previous comment is clear on the subject...

  5. AnonymousMay 18, 2012

    This is very wrong and stupid and discriminatory!
    The only question that should be asked is about unprotected sex with multiple partners during the last six months.
    It's the unprotected sexual practice (whether straight or gay) that transmits the disease and not the sexual orientation! People stop being ignorant!

  6. Boca do Lobo is against any act of discriminitation!
    We have to be carefully in this cases...

    Boca do Lobo
    Stop Discriminitation!

  7. Well, I would love to give some explanations to the person who wrote this article.
    We, at Donner Sang Compter, have been trying to solve this issue, since the very beginnings of our NGO.

    I did receive a call 2 months ago concerning the same topic and i clarified everything to that person, who was really acknowledgeable. I remember we both agreed that the main problem was the way things were written, and i even suggested that he comes up with a better way of saying the same message so we could update our website.

    So, for the person who wrote this article here, if you still care about having a proper answer, i will be more glad to answer all your questions through a phone call.
    So please, do not hide behind your laptop. Just give me a call.


    1. Thank you Yorgui for the clarifications. I certainly didn't mean to be accusing DSC in particular.
      It would be great if your NGO was the one spearheading the change across Lebanon's hospitals.
      I'm sure you have heard that France recently canceled this restriction. The clinical evidence it seems is just not there to justify restricting LGBT from donating blood.
      I would be happy to contact you soon. and please be aware that if it wasn't from "hiding behind a laptop" as you put this blog wouldn't exist...

  8. I just came across this article!!

    All hospitals in Lebanon ask this question, DSC gathered information from all the Lebanese hospitals and made one list that summarize all criteria and certainly DSC didn't made that up!

    It is discriminating, maybe, but this is an international regulation and must be applied because gay people are at higher risk of STD infections.

    Next time, if you think you might be at risk, act a bit responsibly and don't go to donate blood because you are putting another person at risk instead of saving him!!

    Regular blood donor with DSC

  9. Good points, but I wonder if this view doesn't limit the lab's responsibility in testing the blood for these STD before using it, regardless of whether it comes from a low or high risk population.
    Are you implying there might be holes in the verification process?
    Also, what is your view on the role of the testing process, do you think it also provides an opportunity for STD/HIV testing, or it shouldn't be viewed as such?
    Also I don't think I acted irresponsible when I gave blood. It is only the fact that the question was is the questionnaire that made me think that given my sexual orientation and practices, maybe THEY think I'm not safe, and maybe THEY don't want me to donate.


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