The Ministry of Health should review policy of not accepting blood from women who identify as lesbian if they want to reach zero discrimination

Dear Editor,
World AIDS Day this year was commemorated with a Ministry of Health commitment to get to zero discrimination, amongst other things.

A few months ago, the issue of the National Blood Transfusion Service’s  (NBTS) discrimination against LGBT people was discussed in the media. On October 15, 2013, a Stabroek News article quoted an anonymous official as saying that they are following the WHO guidelines ‒ ‘Guidelines on assessing donor suitability for blood donation’ ‒ which have recommended not taking blood from ‘Men who have sex with Men’.

The WHO Guidelines acknowledge that “mathematical modelling” is used to make this determination, even as some countries are accepting blood from gay and bisexual men who do not engage in risky behaviours.
The media attention arose because the question asked by the NBTS was about sexual orientation, rather than behaviours within a period of time.

The PAHO document ‘Eligibility for Blood Donation: Recommendations for Education and Selection of Prospective Blood Donors’  (which the NBTS probably does not follow) states that “Sexual orientation – heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality – should not be used as criterion for blood donor selection since it is not a risk by itself.”

Even if the NBTS would like to conflate sexual orientation with sexual behaviour, then which ‘mathematical modelling’ are they using to determine that lesbians pose a risk? The WHO Guidelines say nothing say nothing about the risks posed by lesbian women (or women who have sex with women) outside of the other factors explained for ‘heterosexual persons.’

Surely the Ministry of Health needs to review its policy of not accepting blood from women who identify as lesbian if they want to get to zero discrimination.
Yours faithfully,
Vidyaratha Kissoon

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