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Advocates Seek Changes to Brazilian Blood Donation Policy

Advocates Seek Changes to Brazilian Blood Donation Policy

Entertainers do not make public health policy, but they sometimes advocate for particular causes. Claudia Leitte is placing herself front and center in the debate about blood donations from homosexual men. The singer posted to social media her support of a change to Brazilian policy that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood, according to Correio. Leitte’s views are just the latest voice joining a chorus of advocates calling for Brazil to lift its restrictions on blood donations.

Under Brazilian law, all blood donations are screened for blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Despite this rigorous testing, Brazilian policy still bars men who have sex with other men from donating blood. Brazil’s Ministry of Health adopted the restriction in 2013 to protect the quality of the blood supply.

All Out, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equal treatment for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, claims that the ban means that health care facilities dispose of or turn away thousands of liters of blood that could otherwise be used in life-saving transfusions. The organization is now backing a campaign in Brazil aimed at reversing the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood. To make their cause more visible, the group drove a truck around São Paulo filled with thousands of blood bags representing the amount of blood wasted every day due to the ban.

Brazil is not alone in restricting blood donations from gay men, though specific rules vary from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for example, gay men must not donate blood until 12 months have passed since their last sexual encounter. While that policy may seem restrictive, it is actually an amendment to an earlier policy that banned gay men from donating blood altogether. In 2015, the United States also eased its ban on homosexual blood donations. Like the new policy in the United Kingdom, the new policy in the United States permits blood donations from gay men who have not had sexual encounters in the previous 12 months.

It is not clear if changing Brazil’s blood donation policy is on the agenda of public health officials or lawmakers. But as blood supplies continue to run low for some blood types, a change in Brazilian policy to broaden the pool of potential donors would offer one way to address the shortages.