Opinion Article written by Roberto Herrera.
When we go to give blood, we can sometimes be surprised by questions that may seem 'strange'. If we have had our teeth cleaned in the last 24 hours, if we have had a piercing or a tattoo in the last 3 months... But nothing as shocking as being asked as a cis man if you have had sex with other men in the last year.
Malta is currently in need of blood donors, but current legislation states that MSMs have to wait a year before they can donate blood. This is discriminatory as well as inefficient. What veracity does a person's word have over scientific verification?
Asking a person about their sex life is an affront to individual dignity. It has become normalised to see sex between people of the same sex as derogatory only when they are men, a disservice to them, that some people want to come out and hear that this is happening in such a relevant and truthful area of our society as healthcare.
What is the point of asking for a year when HIV can be diagnosed as early as the third month of infection? The stigma and stereotype that HIV/AIDS is linked to the gay
community continues to be reproduced and is intended to remain so, as no one can deny that before that blood goes to a recipient, it has first passed through a scientific filter where a series of tests have been carried out. No one takes it for granted that asking a gay man about his sex life will prove that the blood is healthy.
Screening methods are getting better and better, both for detecting diseases and pathogens in our blood, which is why we should not settle for a reduction from 12 months to 3 months, it is still an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation in which gay men are put.
This type of situation leads us to the conclusion that there is still a lot of work to be done in the field of health, because just knowing the scientific side is not enough to be in contact with patients, but we need to learn skills that allow us to approach people regardless of gender and learn from all of them.
In the run-up to the last Prime Ministerial elections, one of the issues that came up for discussion was to start regulating this law affecting Malta. After the elections, will they really heed our request?
Grace, D., Gaspar, M., Lessard, D., Klassen, B., Brennan, D., Adam, B. D., Jillimore, J., Lachowsky, N., & Hart, T. A. (2019). Gay and bisexual men’s views on reforming blood donation policy in Canada: a qualitative study. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s12889-019-7123-4.pdf
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, 24 febrero). LGBT rights in Malta. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Malta#Health_and_blood_donation