- (Photo: Reuters/file)
China has lifted its 14-year-long ban on lesbians donating blood, the country's Health Ministry reported, putting the change into effect on July 1. Sexually active homosexual men, however, are still banned from donating blood, while abstinent gay men may still do so, according to CNN, which cited the Ministry of Health's website.
The Ministry of Health did not provide a reason for lifting the ban, although many in support of the change suspect that advancements in HIV testing and diagnosis have led officials to become more confident with its understanding of the disease.
"It's scientific that the policy doesn't mention homosexual identity but only fences off some who have certain sex behaviors, because AIDS is not caused by one's homosexual identity but improper sexual behavior," Xu Bin, a lesbian rights activist in China, told The Global Times.
"It is also about our dignity and the elimination of blood donation discrimination," she added.
Although Chinese lesbians are pleased with the amendment, some argue that gay men should be given the same allowances.
"In Western countries, gay men can donate if they haven't had sex for a period of time," Huijin, a 27-year-old lesbian in Beijing, told News Track India.
Although some argue that the ban on homosexuals donating blood is discriminatory, others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), argue that it is necessary to maintain safety.
The FDA upheld a law in Dec. 2011 that prohibits any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 to donate blood.
According to a Dec. 2011 article by Kentucky's Courier-Journal, the FDA argues that HIV/AIDS is 60 percent higher among homosexuals than the general population, and the issue is not a question of discrimination, but rather a policy based on science, not "judgment concerning the donor's sexual orientation."
Similarly, in Britain, sexually active gay men may donate blood after 12 months of abstinence.
China's new amended "Whole Blood" policy also involves other provisions, including changing the age for which one can donate blood, changing the amount of blood which may be donated, and shortening the waiting period between donations.
The first case of AIDS in China was in 1985 when an Argentinian and AIDS patient died while visiting the country.
The country imposed the original ban on homosexuals donating blood in 1993 for fear that the HIV/AIDS virus would be spread to others through transfused blood.