Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mexico lifts gay and bisexual blood donor ban

A little noticed Mexican health norm first approved in August and then published in the country's regulatory Official Federation Diary on October 26th has gone into effect today essentially doing away with a two-decade ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, reports Animal Político.

The old norm (NOM 003-SSA2) explicitly banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood based on their "practices" and their "increased probability of acquiring HIV or hepatitis infection".

The new norm (NOM 253) eliminates specific bans on gay and bisexual men and instead bans blood donations from people with HIV or hepatitis and their partners and people who engage in "risky sexual practices" regardless of their sexual identity.

In the new blood donor norms "risky sexual practices" are defined as those that may include "contact or exchange of blood, sexual secretions or other bodily secretions between someone who might have a transmittable disease and areas of another person's body through which an infectious agent might be able to penetrate."

The United States and a number of Latin American countries which include Argentina, Chile and Colombia have been mulling lifting similar longstanding bans that have been in effect since the HIV/AIDS crisis broke through decades ago.

If this report is correct, Mexico might be the first country in the American continent to lift such a ban.

UPDATE 1 (Dec. 26, 2012): The National Council to Prevent Discrimination (CONAPRED) has released a statement confirming these reports and saluting the new regulations as a step forward in eliminating discrimination.

In the statement, the governmental body applauds the move to base blood donor criteria on risk factors rather than on discriminatory perceptions about certain social groups. Here is a translated excerpt from the statement:
The previous NOM contained several explicitly discriminatory requirements that kept people from donating blood based on their sexual preference or orientation; instead, from now on, medical/scientific criteria will be used to identify pathogens in the blood and the focus will be turned to risky behaviors rather than social groups.
In making these discriminatory distinctions, the [previous] norm explicitly violated the prohibition against discrimination present in the Constitution and the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, as well as Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 26 of the International Civil and Political Rights Treaty, among other international instruments of law, which establish that every person is equal before the law regardless of any condition.
In closing, the agency vows to engage administrative and medical entities to make them aware of the new regulations and train them so that the new policy is promptly adopted in order to eradicate the stigma and discrimination contained in the previous norm.

UPDATE 2 (Dec. 28, 2012): GEN, an online site that focuses on genetic engineering and biotechnology, notes concerns raised by CONAPRED that a separate section of the new norm might still discriminate against a group of people. From GEN's article:
The previous NOM requirements explicitly excluded people who could donate blood based on sexual preferences or orientation or even social status, according to Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred), which also points out that despite this progress, there is still a degree of discrimination in the wording in the new NOM ruling. Specifically, subsection, Point J, excludes people on a temporary basis from donating blood "[who have] been hospitalized for more than 72 consecutive hours in penal or mental illness. The organization maintains that this subsection stigmatizes prison populations and people with mental disabilities.

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