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June 14, 2021 4:13 pm

Israel’s New Health Minister Plans to Lift Restrictions Preventing Gay Men From Donating Blood

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Party leaders of the proposed new coalition government, including Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz (first from right), pose for a picture at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, before the start of a special session to approve and swear-in the coalition government, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. Ariel Zandberg/Handout via REUTERS

Israel’s new Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz will seek to lift restrictions on blood donations from gay men, as one of his first actions after he was sworn in as part of the country’s new government on Sunday.

Horowitz plans to completely remove a question related to the timing of sexual activity between men from the Magen David Adom (MDA) blood donation questionnaire, according to a report by Israel’s Ynet online portal. Currently one question in the personal blood donor questionnaire asks male candidate donors whether they engaged in same-sex relations over the past 12 months, which has criticized as a discriminatory measure by members of the gay community and others.

Horowitz — who heads the Meretz party in the new government and is the second openly gay Knesset member in Israel’s history — will make the change so that gay men are allowed to donate blood irrespective of their sexual activity.

The restriction was implemented partly because homosexual men have been considered a high-risk group when it comes to blood donations, as they were statistically more likely to be infected with the HIV virus. According to the report, Israel has in recent years seen a drop in the overall infection rate of the HIV virus, including among the gay community.

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In recent years, a number of countries have revised their policies regarding blood donation by men who have sexual relations with other men. The main concern has been balancing the safety of the blood supply without stigmatizing gay and bisexual men.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Israel are touted as the most developed in the Middle East. The city of Tel Aviv has been considered the “Gay Capital of the Middle East,” thanks to its thriving and supported LGBT community, celebrating an annual gay pride parade that draws tens of thousands of people from around the world.

Horowitz’s plan coincides with International Blood Donor Day in Israel and around the world, which is celebrated on June 14. According to MDA, blood services data 271,305 blood units were donated since the last blood donor day, of which 48,447 new donors donated their first blood donation this year.

According to gender analysis about 68.5% of blood donations were donated by men and 31.5% by women. The MDA data also showed that IDF soldiers donated 68,875 blood units, which is a quarter of all blood units donated in Israel in the past year. Overall, the blood donations helped save the lives of 800,000 sick, injured and mothers in the country.

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