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International News

Thai Red Cross Ends Separate Screening for Gay Blood Donors

April 16, 2008

Responding to concerns from activists who felt its procedure was discriminatory, the Red Cross of Thailand has announced changes in its blood donor screening process.

The risk assessment form required of potential donors included one question that effectively blocked all gay men from donating by asking only about same-sex relations, activists maintained. The Red Cross said it will reformulate the questionnaire to inquire about all types of sexual behavior, homosexual as well as heterosexual, that could increase the risk of disease transmission, said Soisaang Pikulsod, director of the Thai Red Cross National Blood Center.

Soisaang said concerns about infected donations grew after HIV was found in the blood of 500 donors in 2007 -- half of whom said they were gay and half said they were bisexual. After they were notified, only about one-third of the donors returned for counseling, she said. About 28 percent of gay men in Bangkok had HIV in 2005, according to a report from the U.S. CDC.

Gay activist Nathee Teerarojanapong, who raised objections to the questionnaire, called on the Red Cross to modify the survey to look at specific risky sex and drug use behaviors instead of singling out gay men and lesbians. "Sometimes gays want to do good things too," he said.

Donating blood is an important activity in Thailand, where Buddhists believe it can help them gain favor in the afterlife.

Back to other news for April 2008

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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