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.
-- pic, post by Gib#2