China permits lesbians to donate blood

China has lifted a 14-year-old ban on lesbians from donating blood, while still barring gays, thought of as a high-risk group for AIDS transmission, from doing so.

The Whole Blood and Component Donor Selection Requirements, released by the Ministry of Health last year, amended the provision which had forbidden homosexuals from giving blood.

The new rule now does not mention homosexual identity, only stating that men who are sexually active with other men are still barred from donating, state-run Global Times daily reported on Tuesday.

An anonymous staff member from Beijing Red Cross Blood Centre confirmed on Monday that its units have received the notice from the ministry.

"According to the new policy, mobile blood centres should have started accepting lesbian donors from Sunday," the official said.

The director of Common Language, an NGO dedicated to supporting lesbians and bisexuals, nicknamed Xian, said that she applauded the amendment and is planning to coordinate members of the NGO to donate blood.

Xian did not know lesbians were barred from giving blood until after the earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008, when she was told she could not donate blood.

"It's scientific that the policy doesn't mention homosexual identity but only fences off some who have certain sex behaviours, because AIDS is not caused by one's homosexual identity but improper sexual behaviour," Xian said.

She added that in the past, although a lesbian was able to donate by concealing her homosexual identity, the new policy is still meaningful for them. "It is also about our dignity and the elimination of blood donation discrimination," she said.

A sexologist Li Yinhe said that as China learnt about AIDS and homosexuality at roughly the same time, in the 1980s, "the nation easily believed that being a homosexual equates to AIDS."

"Inadequate understanding of the two things is the main reason why 'homosexuals' was listed as a group not allowed to donate blood, as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS," Li said.
The first case of AIDS in China occurred in 1985 when an Argentine visitor, also an AIDS patient, died during a trip to the country, according to Li.

"Judging from the amendment, the country's views on homosexuals and AIDS has progressed," Li said, noting that gay men were still thought of as a high-risk group for AIDS transmission, but lesbians are a low-risk group.

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