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Health minister announces removal of all blood donation restrictions for gay men

Nitzan Horowitz hails ‘historic step forward for equal rights for the LGBT community in Israel’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a visit to Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer in Ramat Gan on August 3, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a visit to Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer in Ramat Gan on August 3, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced Thursday morning that all restrictions on blood donations from homosexual men will be lifted.

“The discrimination against gay men donating blood is over,” Horowitz tweeted. “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.”

Horowitz, who was the second openly gay Knesset member in history, added that the road to Thursday’s decision has been a long one.

“For years we have been trying to get rid of [the restrictions] and now we’ve finally succeeded,” he wrote. “There is no difference between blood and blood. This is a historical step forward for equal rights for the LGBT community in Israel.”

Horowitz said all restrictions will be lifted as of October 1. Instead of a question about same-sex physical relations, the questionnaire will simply inform all blood donors to wait three months “after high-risk sex with a new partner or multiple partners.”

The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel welcomed the announcement.

“Ending discrimination in blood donations is a historic step for the gay community and for Israeli society on the way to equality,” the organization said in a statement. “The blood of hundreds of thousands of citizens is not second class.”

The organization thanked Horowitz “for this important decision, which eliminates outdated stereotypes toward the gay community.”

Hundreds of Israelis line up to donate blood following the deadly Mt Meron crush, on April 30, 2021. (Screenshot: Channel 12)

Gay and bisexual men were originally forbidden to donate blood over fears of AIDS, though in recent years countries around the world have started changing their procedures toward gay blood donors.

In 2018, the Health Ministry launched a two-year pilot program to screen blood donations from gay men through a “double-test procedure,” but questions about same-sex sexual encounters remained on the donation questionnaire.

In 2017, the Health Ministry lifted restrictions on blood donations from Ethiopian Israelis, which had been in effect since 1977.

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