San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Activist Appeals Ban on Gay, Bisexual Blood Donors

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) this week accepted a lawsuit arguing that a 16-year-old decree that prohibits homosexual and bisexual men from donating blood is unconstitutional.

The court agreed to review the decree following complaints by activist Alberto Cabezas, a representative of the Young People s Consulting Network, who called the rule totally unethical and outmoded.

He said the decree prohibits those who declare they are homosexual or bisexual men or prostitutes on blood donation applications from being able to donate blood.

Cabezas said he refused to give blood when he learned of the regulation, and wants it repealed. The decree declares homosexual and bisexual men, prostitutes, promiscuous people and drug addicts who inject drugs as high risk groups.

Cabezas pointed to the policy of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which bases a person s risk for AIDS on whether they have risky sexual conduct, not which the group they fall into, as a model to follow.

Costa Rica s Social Security System (Caja) screens all donated blood for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other diseases according to international regulations, said Dr. Ana Lorena Torres, of the Caja s Microbiology Department. The microbiologist told The Tico Times prospective donors are interviewed before they are allowed to donate blood but are not asked directly if they are homosexual or bisexual.

During the interviews we try to eliminate certain risks It s not discriminatory, she said. According to Torres, the blood tests are 99.8% accurate.

Cabezas, however, says that on the written form, blood donors are asked directly whether they are gay or bisexual, and if they are, they are prohibited from donating blood.


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