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26 Aug, 2013 11:26

Russia may bring back gay blood donor ban

Russia may bring back gay blood donor ban

Russia could soon reintroduce the ban on blood and organ donations for gay men, but offer them free treatment facilitating ‘conversion’ to heterosexuals, a senior Russian MP has said.

We will suggest amendments to the law on donors that reintroduce homosexuality to the list of contraindications for blood donations in Health Ministry instructions,” said State Duma MP Mikhail Degtyarev, who is also a Moscow mayoral candidate from the populist-nationalist party LDPR.

The politician told a news conference in Moscow that in his view such a step could not be considered discriminatory, as 65 percent of all HIV-positive persons are homosexuals. Degtyarev did not give the source of this statistics.

Degtyarev also added that the lower house was working on the initiative to offer gays voluntary anonymous consultations with psychologists, psychotherapists and sexologists that would help them to “return to normal life and become heterosexuals, as are 95 to 99 percent of our citizens.”

The MP noted that he personally was not against gay pride events – as long as they did not violate the freshly-introduced ban on advertising of non-traditional sex relations to minors.

The law presumes that they should not hold gay pride events when children can see them. But it is very possible to hold them at night, with flashlights and without amplifiers,” Degtyarev explained.

The Health Ministry’s press secretary Oleg Salagay told reporters that the experts would study the suggestion if it arrives in due order. The official said that when deciding on limitations lawmakers should consider both the human rights issues and the possible health risks. He noted that Russia had already had a ban on blood donation for gays, but it was lifted several years ago and in many countries, including the USA, the ban on blood and organ donation for homosexuals is still in force, despite being a topic of debate.

The bans Salagay referred to are the rules America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), introduced in the early 1980s in an attempt to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion,” reads the statement on FDA’s official website.

Many other nations, including Israel, Germany and France also have indefinite deferrals for gay men willing to donate blood or organs. Some countries, like UK, Australia and Sweden, impose a limited time deferrals ranging from one to five years from the date of last gay sex.

One of the best-known leaders of Russian LGBT community, Nikolay Alekseyev, said that the suggested measure was both discriminatory and ineffective, and promised to fight against it. The activist said that the limitations should be based on the future donors’ promiscuity rather than their sexual orientation, and recalled that the ban used to exist in Russia, but was lifted in 2008.

We’ve lived without these restrictions for five years. It has not aggravated the situation with diseases. Modern methods of diagnostics allow early detection of infected blood and if they impose the ban this would only deprive the patients of blood from some donors,” the Interfax news agency quoted Alekseyev as saying.