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
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
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations