Photo: Nguyễn Hiệp

Israel has lifted a longstanding ban on blood donations made by gay men.

In an announcement on Thursday (August 19), the country’s health minister revealed the changes after calling the restrictions a form of “discrimination”.

Until last week, all men who attempted to donate blood in Israel were asked if they had same-sex relations during the last 12 months – something that would disqualify them from giving if they had.

The new questionnaire now asks about “high-risk sexual relations with a new partner or partners” in the last three months, including the use of gender-neutral language.

Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s health minister, who is also openly gay, took to social media last week to make the announcement and explain that everyone will be treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“There’s no difference between one blood and the other,” he said. “Discrimination against gays in donating blood is over.

“When I became minister, I ordered the removal of the degrading and irrelevant questions from the blood donation questionnaire — remnants of a stereotype that belongs to history.”

The move was praised by Israeli LGBTQ+ rights groups, who said it is a key step towards equality in the country.

Gal Wagner Kolasko, head of the Israeli LGBT Medical Associations, thanked the health minister for making the “historical correction.”

He wrote: “Now there are safe blood doses for all without discrimination or harming human rights. Because discrimination also causes serious damage to health.”

Blood donation restrictions for gay men were eased in England, Scotland and Wales earlier this year after a similar decision was made in the US in 2020 following a drop in the country’s blood supply.

Now, people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months, meaning gay and bisexual men in sexually active and monogamous relationships can give blood for the first time.

The policy was first changed in 2011 to allow gay and bisexual men who have not had sex in the past 12 months to donate.

In 2017, it was revised again to permit donations by men who have not had sex in the past three months, which excluded sexually active men who were in monogamous relationships.

Donors who have participated in anal sex with a new or multiple partners in the past three months will still have to wait three months to donate, regardless of their gender.

In Northern Ireland, the three-month deferral period will remain in place until September.