Israel Still Rejects Ethiopian, Gay Blood Donors – Despite Recommendations

Eighteen months after a Health Ministry panel recommending easing decades-old restrictions, the bans are still in place.

Although 18 months have passed since a special Health Ministry panel proposed to change the criteria for blood donations so most Israelis of Ethiopian origin and gay men could donate blood, the recommendations have yet to be adopted and no one is sure when they will be.

The recommendations call for accepting blood donations from anyone of Ethiopian origin who has lived in Israel for over 10 years, and from men who have not engaged in sexual relations with other men in the preceding 12 months. The recommendations have yet to be published, and there has been no explanation of why they aren’t being implemented.

In a response on Sunday, the Health Ministry said the issue is under discussion and when the review is completed, “we will define precisely the directives regarding blood donations.”

Currently, only Ethiopian-Israelis who were born in Israel can donate blood, and gay men cannot give blood if they’ve had homosexual relations since 1977. These restrictions have been in place for decades and stemmed from a concern that HIV-tainted blood might enter the nation’s blood banks. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

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