Let gay men donate blood, says lawmaker

Raymond Chan argues other countries' donor services have stopped bar on homosexual men

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 7:27am

The Hospital Authority, which helps the Hong Kong Red Cross manage its blood donation services, is studying the feasibility of allowing homosexual men to donate blood, according to a gay lawmaker who was barred from donation yesterday.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen tried to donate blood at a donation service in the Legislative Council yesterday.

Many countries already allow homosexuals to donate blood if they have not had sex in a year
People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen

"I was given a questionnaire in which a question asks if I have had sex with a man. I ticked the box," Chan said. "Then a doctor explained to me that statistics and foreign examples show that blood from men who have had sex with men show a high risk [of HIV]."

The doctor then told Chan that some countries had relaxed the rules and now permit homosexual men who have not had sex over a certain period of time to donate blood.

The authority is also studying this possibility but no conclusion has been drawn yet, Chan said.

He said the authority should only bar those who have had unsafe sex and were involved in promiscuity instead of "unreasonably" barring all men who have had sex with other men.

"Many countries already allow homosexuals to donate blood if they have not had sex in a year. That is what is happening in Britain and Australia," Chan said.

Many homosexual men who practise safe sex and who wanted to give blood might choose to lie about their sexual orientation, he added.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service said an expert panel set up by the Hospital Authority regularly monitors the international trends on blood donation criteria as well as medical advances in order to "review guidelines on blood donation criteria".

The panel had studied figures from the Department of Health which showed sexually active homosexual men pose a relatively higher risk of contracting HIV than other groups of people.

That is why the expert panel had so far decided not to allow this group of people to donate blood, the spokesman added.

Prospective donors are also required to give other details, such as health problems, to avoid any health risks for recipients. Currently, people who have recently travelled to North America may not be allowed to donate for fear of West Nile Virus infection.