All blood donors in the Netherlands must receive the same questionnaire early next year to determine whether their blood or plasma is safe to use. Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation, the Dutch counterpart of the Red Cross, reports this. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. Only your sex behavior counts, in view of blood-borne infections.
At the moment, men who have sex with men are only allowed to donate if they have been in a monogamous relationship for a long time or have not had sex for four months. This does not apply to heterosexuals. However, the policy aimed at men who have sex with men must end, according to the Sanquin Foundation. It shouldn’t matter who you had sex with anymore. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers speaks of good news in a letter to the House of Representatives. He therefore attaches great importance to the new practice taking effect on 1 January at the latest.
The implementation still needs time, according to Sanquin. The organization works together with Prothya Biosolutions Netherlands BV, which produces plasma medicines from the collected plasma. Due to the new assessment of sexual risk behavior, Prothya will have to adjust the registration dossier at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Only after approval by the EMA can the equal treatment of all blood donors be introduced, says Prothya.
The blood banks will also have to make adjustments and train all employees.
Interest group of, among others, homosexuals COC is “happy” with the developments. “From the beginning of 2024, men who have sex with men will no longer be discriminated against when donating blood,” the organization concludes. She has argued for it for years, says COC chairman Astrid Oosenbrug, who speaks of a breakthrough.
There was already a lot of resistance in politics and public opinion against the separate treatment of men who have sex with men, but blood transfusions must of course be safe. Sanquin developed the new policy on the basis of scientific research “which provides concrete tools for implementing this change”. The change had been in place for some time, but research in collaboration with the University of Maastricht was delayed.
Strict rules in Belgium
In Belgium, gay and bisexual men are not allowed to donate blood until twelve months after their last sexual contact, which effectively makes blood donation by sexually active gay and bisexual men impossible. “The policy is determined by Belgian blood legislation, based on scientific research and epidemiological data from our country,” explains the Red Cross. “This blood legislation is not based on orientation but on sexual risk contact. So there is also a temporary postponement if there was sexual risk contact between a man and a woman or two women.
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