On May 8th, by a majority of 7 to 4, judges of Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) overturned rules which restricted bisexual and gay men from donating blood, ruling them unconstitutional.
Such guidelines were imposed by many countries during the 1980s due to the HIV crisis and, specifically in Brazil, they barred men who had sexual relations with other men from donating blood for a period of 12 months. However, these norms perpetuated a stigma against them.
Justice Edson Fachin, who voted favorably on the matter, said the rules violated the constitutional right to equality and stated: “Instead of the State enabling this group to promote well-being by donating blood, it unduly restricted [the right to] solidarity based on prejudice and discrimination.” In contrast, Justice Alexandre de Moraes voted against lifting existing restrictions by arguing the ban was based on technical studies, not on discriminatory practices.
The case arrived before the STF in 2016, and the decision is considered a major human rights victory for all LGBTQI people in Brazil. Moreover, it comes at a time when blood banks are facing a serious shortage both nationally and internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Rafael Carneiro, name partner at Carneiros e Dipp Advogados, the attorney responsible for filing the lawsuit: “The STF understood that the donor’s sexual orientation, per se, does not impose a risk to the quality of the blood. The decision is a breath of solidarity in this delicate moment which we are going through.”
Brazil is just the latest of several countries to change its regulations. In Italy and Spain, for example, deferral periods were replaced with individualized procedures to perform checks on the donor’s sexual history and any potential risks, measures perceived both as safe and non-discriminatory.