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Rome Hospital Accused Of Turning Away Lesbian Blood Donor

After the third such case in recent years, where health officials cite "risks" of gays giving blood, Italian gay rights activists say it's time to explicitly guarantee the right for people of all sexual orientations to donate bl

A gay rights rally in Milan (David Saltuari)
A gay rights rally in Milan (David Saltuari)


ROME – Donating blood is one more civic act that Italian gay rights activists now say must be explicitly protected by law. The latest controversy comes after a woman in Rome says she was not allowed to give blood at one of the city's largest hospitals because she is a lesbian.

The 39-year-old accounting firm employee, referred to as "Angela," says she was told by a hospital official at Policlinico Umberto I that she is "considered at risk" because of her personal life. The woman says she has had a monogamous relationship with another woman for more than the 120 days required to exclude the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

"There is no law that bans homosexuals from donating blood," said Gabriella Girelli, director of the blood transfusion center at Umberto I. "In general, ‘at risk" people cannot do it. It's up to the examining doctor to determine the risk on the base of the information provided."

Roberto Stocco, spokesman for the Rome chapter of the Arcigay association, says denying someone the possibility to donate blood is a violation of Italian law. He added that he was skeptical about Girelli's claim that she cannot refer to the specifics of the case to protect patient privacy.

"It is an exercise in stupidity," says Ivan Scalfarotto, an official for the opposition Democratic Party. "Since AIDS is transmitted via blood and sperm, lesbians are considered not at risk."

This is not the first time this issue has come to the fore in Italy, with similar denials in the northern city of Pordenone in 2007, and Milan in 2010. Another opposition politician and activist, Paolo Concia, says she will take the issue to Parliament.

"We want to put it down by law that homosexuality is not an element that should exclude someone from donating blood," she said. "Some institutes use "safety" to hide their anti-gay prejudices, forgetting the real risk of 9 million straight Italian men who frequent prostitutes."

Read more from La Stampa in Italian

photo - David Saltuari

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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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