China has lifted a 14-year ban on lesbians giving blood, the Ministry of Health has announced.
The ban was originally put in place due to governmental misunderstanding about the causes of HIV/AIDS, according to GLBT rights activists.
Sexologist Li Yinhe says it has been widely assumed that “being a homosexual equals AIDS”, despite lesbian sexual contact being a low-risk activity for the transmission of HIV.
This misunderstanding came about due to homosexuality and HIV/AIDS entering the public consciousness around the same time, Li says.
“Inadequate understanding of the two things is the main reason why ‘homosexuals’ were listed as a group not allowed to donate blood.”
The new law has abolished any mention of homosexual identity, stating only that men who have sex with men (MSM) are barred from donating.
A spokesperson from the Beijing Red Cross Blood Centre says the organisation began accepting lesbian donors last week.
Activists are welcoming the move as a step forward for GLBT rights.
“Judging from the amendment, the country’s views on homosexuals and AIDS has progressed,” Li says.
Lesbian activist Xian, a member of the Beijing-based lesbian group Tong Yu, adds: “It is about our dignity and the elimination of blood donation discrimination.”
Activists are now calling for the lifetime ban on blood donations by MSM to be lifted, citing the examples of Western countries like England, Scotland and Wales, which allow MSM to donate blood if they have not had sex with another man in the past year.