Gay lobby groups are campaigning to overturn a rule that forbids male homosexuals from giving blood in Switzerland. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)
The ban on practising homosexual males is aimed at preventing the spread of HIV through blood donations. All donated blood is screened for diseases, but if a donor who is HIV positive has not yet developed sufficient antibodies to be detected by tests, he may test negative. So the ban is considered by the Swiss authorities to be a further safeguard.
The Swiss Aids Federation says that, in this country, the spread of HIV/AIDS is most prevalent among practising gays, African migrants and intravenous drug users.
Restrictions on donors are sometimes called "deferrals", since blood donors who are found ineligible may be found eligible at a later date. In Switzerland, deferrals are indefinite, so these blood donors may not be accepted at any point in the future. In Europe, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Poland and Russia have no deferrals.
Among states belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Mexico and Chile also have no restrictions. Several other member states have deferral periods from one to five years.
Many gay organisations view the restrictions as based on homophobia rather than valid medical concerns. Some gays are defying the donor ban in Switzerland and making false declarations on their registration questionnaires concerning their sexual behaviour.