Dispute Over Gay Blood Donors

More and more Swedish blood centers are getting exemption from following new rules that allow gay men to give blood, reports Swedish Radio news.

Previously, they had not been allowed to at all, but the rules changed to let them give blood, provided they haven't had sex with another man in 12 months.

Authorities disagree about the new rules, which the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare effected in March. Some worry that the new policy could increase the risk of HIV infection, but the Board of Health says that this is not the case, referring to a study.

"The studies show that with the good testing methods we have today and with a qualifying period, the increase of risk is extremely small," says Anders Tegnell from the Board of Health.

But the nation's blood centers say the Board of Health's study is not published or reviewed in any international scientific journals.

Senior lecturer Tommy Söderström is the chair of the Swedish Blood Alliance and a Swedish expert in the EU's work to assure quality in blood donations.

Söderström says that the Board of Health stands relatively alone, both in Europe and in the world, in their thinking that there is a scientific foundation for their decision.

He says that many studies do indeed show that the risk of infection increases when men who have had sex with other men donate blood.

The Board of Health will let the blood centers refrain from following the new rules until next summer, but Söderström believes the Board will be forced to extend these exemptions even longer until the EU reaches a unified stance on the matter.