José Soeiro, member of the Portuguese Parliament, left a warning on Wednesday morning at the end of a parliamentary hearing to the president of the Portuguese Blood Institute (IPST) Hélder Trindade. “Let’s think on the consequences of this hearing,” the MP said. At the end of the day Soeiro’s Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda, BE) detailed that same consequences in a press release. As Trindade “delivered a set of biased statements”, BE now wants to question the Government about whether it “keeps political trust” in the president of the Portuguese Blood Institute.

Through a written question to the government, BE also wants to know if the executive “endorses the statements of Trindade, under which a man having sex with another man is a risk behaviour, even if that relationship is protected.” Men who have had sex with other men (medical term for gay and bisexual men) are currently deferred as blood donors in Portugal, despite there are no written rules to validate that deferment. Many other countries have a similar ban with clear policies on the subject.

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Portuguese Blood Institute has a criterion for straights and a different one for gays (photo: Vegasjon/CC)

Trindade defended on Wednesday, during a hearing before Health Commission of the Portuguese Parliament, that sexually active gay and bisexual men must continue to be excluded from blood donation even if they use condoms in anal intercourse “If a donor admits he is gay but also admits he didn’t have any sexual activity with men he can give blood,” Trindade said.

He also defended his opinion is not biased, but based on scientific criteria.

Questioned by journalists about whether straight people who practice anal intercourse are also only accepted if abstaining from sex, the same official said: “I have a criterion for heterosexuals and a different one for homosexuals who have anal intercourse because homosexual population has a very high prevalence of HIV.”

The hearing was requested by BE last week, following the article I wrote for the Portuguese daily Público in March 27, according to which a working group created in 2012 by IPST to study blood donation by gays and bisexuals did not present any conclusions until now. The names of the experts that compose the group were also publicly unknown.

Trindade was prepared for doubts about the identity of the experts. He promptly disclosed the names before MPs: Ana Paula Sousa, Ricardo Camacho, Lucília Nunes, Fernando Araújo, António Diniz, Nuno Janeiro and Isabel Elias.

The delay of the working group’s conclusions was strangely defended as fundamentally due to a March 2013 resolution of the Council of Europe that “asked member states to study and say what is the risk and why is it important to change [criteria],” Trindade defended.

Trindade did not commit before the deputies with a deadline for submission of conclusions but he said to reporters that that is to happen “later this year.”

The hearing took place on the same day that the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that refusing blood donations from men who have had sexual relations with other men “may be justified.

Bruno Horta

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