Blood donation ban for homosexual men Godesberg couple complains about discrimination when donating blood
Bad Godesberg · With their Theater Palast, Knut Vanmarcke and Dirk Vossberg-Vanmarcke stand for good humor and carefreeness. However, the Godesberg couple is disproportionately annoyed that homosexual men are currently still excluded from donating blood.
When the "Malentes" and their artists take the stage, it's all about fun, cheerfulness, the good old days. But their show "Divas" garnished the Theater Palast directors Knut Vanmarcke and Dirk Vossberg-Vanmarcke recently in parts with social criticism. Among other things, the couple addressed in one number the fact that homosexual men are not allowed to donate blood. "We noticed that it was the topic of conversation at the tables afterwards," says Knut Vanmarcke from Godesberg in a GA interview. Many visitors would not have known that in Germany gays can only give blood if they have not had sexual intercourse for twelve months.
In June, just in time for World Blood Donor Day, the 46-year-old finally conveyed his annoyance via Facebook. "Too gay to donate blood?" was his leading question. Which, however, has a serious background for the homosexual men. "First of all, the topic doesn't interest anyone it doesn't affect personally, but it's still discrimination," says the 52-year-old Vossberg-Vanmarcke. Naming that, they both said, was important. He has had an organ donor card for 15 years. "My blood is stuck to my organs, after all, but apparently that's not a bad thing," the co-operator of Malente's Theater Palast am Hochkreuz marvels.
But since July, there has been movement in the matter at the national level. That's because a working group made up of representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, the Robert Koch Institute, the Blood Working Group and an advisory board of the German Medical Association has been looking into the regulations for donor selection. Since the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, men who have sex with men were initially prohibited from donating blood.
Panel makes proposal for change in transfusion law
Since 2017, gay, bisexual and transgender men have been allowed to do so again, but only after a waiting period of twelve months since their last sexual intercourse. Until now, the ban was always justified by the fact that the sexual behavior of the aforementioned persons could entail "a risk for the recipient of blood products". In other words, diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS could be transmitted more easily.
According to a request from the Policy and Communications Department of the German Medical Association, the working group still does not want to allow people with sexual risk behavior to donate blood, despite sensitive and specific test procedures, "in order to ensure the high safety of recipients in Germany. However, the experts also stated that sexual intercourse exclusively within a long-term couple relationship of non-infected partners cannot per se be assumed to pose an increased risk of blood-borne infectious diseases.
Since infections with the hepatitis virus or HIV could be reliably ruled out after four months at the latest, the panel made a proposal for an amendment to the Transfusion Act. According to this, "persons who have been sexually active exclusively in such a partnership for at least four months" would be allowed to donate blood. By "such partnership" is meant couples, regardless of gender, who have "sexual intercourse exclusively within a relationship designed to last". So all donors, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, will be allowed to donate blood after four months of "risk-free sexual intercourse," meaning no changing partners. The board of the German Medical Association will have the final say on the hemotherapy guidelines (collection of blood and blood components and use of blood products) in mid-September.
How do those who deal with this on a daily basis view the possible change? Stephan David Küpper is press spokesman for the DRK Blood Donation Service West, which is based in Ratingen. "We welcome the proposed new regulation, because it will give a larger group the opportunity to donate," Küpper says. However, patients must still be able to assume that they will be able to donate safely. Sixty-seven percent of new HIV infections were among gay men, according to studies. "So the safety level in the medical history has nothing to do with homophobic behavior," the spokesman says. And he stresses that the intimate questions before bloodletting are also kickout criteria for prostitutes and straight men with frequently changing partners.
For at-risk groups, it's also about honesty
The basic problem for Küpper remains, "We depend on people's honesty." Every blood sample is tested for the same pathogens, he said, including syphillis. He can explain why the new version of the guideline does not have to pass through federal political committees. "The blood donation system is outsourced according to the principle of subsidiarity, so that, for example, no election campaign can be made with it," says the press officer.
For the Federal Ministry of Health, it is "of high importance that behavioral exclusions and provisions of groups of people from blood and plasma donation are based on current scientific-epidemiological data and findings, thus ensuring a scientifically based and non-discriminatory approach to donor selection." This was communicated by the Berlin-based company upon request. The necessary review procedure has now been initiated at the Federal Medical Association on the basis of the advisory result of the working group.
Would "the Malentes" then give their blood if they were allowed to? "I would at least like to have the right to be able to do it," Vossberg-Vanmarcke emphasizes. If larger quantities were suddenly needed as a result of a catastrophe, they would definitely be there, say the two Godesbergers.
The Queere Netzwerk NRW unfortunately left inquiries unanswered. The expert of the Aids-Hilfe Bonn was not available for health reasons.