Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Minister defends allowing gay men to donate blood

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Allowing gay men to donate blood is a meaningful step toward the protection of human rights, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in response to criticism that the policy would raise health concerns.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare in March announced that it was planning to amend the regulations to lift a ban on blood donation from gay men who had not had sex with another man in five years and from people who had not taken controlled drugs in the previous six months.

As the proposed amendment has been reviewed twice in more than 60 days, it may be implemented after an evaluation of the opinions gathered from the public, followed by a final announcement.

The Taiwan Lily Justice Association yesterday said that the policy raises concern over whether nucleic acid testing (NAT) can detect the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in donated blood.

The association played on the government’s blood donation slogan, “save one life by donating one bag of blood,” by turning it into “destroy one life by donating one bag of blood.”

It said the number of nations that allow blood donations from gay men is low.

Centers for Disease Control data show that of 631 reported HIV cases between January and April, 479, or 76 percent, were men who had had unprotected sex with other men.

The association said the ministry is claiming to follow the global trend of lifting the ban, but might actually be putting the public at risk of HIV infection through blood transfusion and causing panic, and urged the Executive Yuan to reject the proposal.

Chen said any person who had unprotected sex could pose a risk of HIV infection, which is not limited to gay men.

The accuracy of NAT has significantly improved through the years, reaching nearly 100 percent, so ensuring the safety of donated blood through advanced screening methods is better than relying on self-claims, he said.

“People who are not suitable for donating blood can conceal the truth under heavy social pressure, so there can be many dark figures, making even strict regulations ineffective, so it would benefit everyone if everyone was honest about the issue,” Chen said.

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