Gay man banned from giving blood in France takes case to European court

A gay man who has repeatedly been denied the chance to donate blood has taken his case to one of Europe’s top courts.

Laurent Drelon filed a discrimination suit at the European Court of Human Rights on Friday after being prevented from donating blood because he has sex with men.

According to AFP, the 48-year-old Frenchman has tried to give blood multiple times since 2004 but has been prevented each time due to France’s shifting laws on men who have sex with men donating blood.

A French blood donation card (GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2016, France lifted its previous lifetime ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men donating blood in favour of a 12-month deferral period, similar to other countries in Europe.

France also has a four-month deferral period for plasma donations.

However, many activists maintain that any length of deferral period is discriminatory, as it penalises gay and bisexual men and is unevenly applied.

In France, a man who has sex with men must abstain from sex for 12 months, however, a woman who has sex with a man who also has sex with men is not subject to the same deferral.

France recently relaxed its rules on gay blood donation (MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images)

Drelon argues that the blood deferral period is both discriminatory on the basis of sexuality, but also violates his right to privacy by having to disclose his sexual history.

Patrice Spinosi, who is representing Drelon, said: “It’s the first time that the ECHR will make a decision on whether French legislation is discriminatory or not.”

As it is the first time the blood ban has been contested in the European Court of Human Rights, the ruling could set a precedent for the other European countries that maintain blood deferral periods, including the UK, Belgium, Germany and Finland.

Blood vials

Multiple countries still maintain deferral periods for gay and bisexual men (Creative Commons)

Many of the justifications for the blood deferral periods previously came from concerns about a risk of HIV contamination of the blood.

However, changes to policies have been recently recommended around the world due to advances in screening and prevention technology.

Hong Kong recently removed its lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

The Red Cross Blood Transfusion Centre announced in 2017 that it was changing its guidelines, as supplies of blood in the territory fell to “an alarming level”.

Blood donation policies vary widely (Getty)

Dropping the permanent ban, the changes in Hong Kong allow men to give blood as long as they have not had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

In 2017, Switzerland also lifted its lifetime ban.

Ireland has also softened its rules in a similar fashion, lifting its permanent ban on men who have had sex with men from donating blood and instead introducing a deferral period of 12 months.