Argentina has became the latest country to lift its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, joining an elite group of countries worldwide who accept blood from the group with no strings attached. Only 21 countries in the world allow gay and bisexual male blood donations, while others either totally ban it or have a time deferral system during which no sexual activity with another male is allowed before donating blood.

Health Minister Daniel Gollán lifted the ban at a special signing ceremony at which he said under a new policy Argentina could finally “move toward a national blood system that is safe, caring, and inclusive.”

Under Argentina’s new policy each blood donor will go through individualized risk-assessment screening.

The South American country joins Australia, Brazil, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, Britain, Bhutan, Spain, Bulgaria, Chile, Latvia,Italy,Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela, Poland and Portugal, as the only countries that have no bans on known gay or bi-sexual male blood donation.

The Argentine move was welcomed by activists in the U.S. which still bans blood donation by gay and bisexual males.

Earlier this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it plans to revise its total ban for gay and bisexual men which has been in place in 1977 – the height of the AIDs epidemic in the country.

Gay activists have criticised the plan saying gay and bisexual men would still be discriminated against as it would place monogamous gay men in the same blood donation group as “straight people” who had unprotected sex with prostitutes, and used IV drugs.

One activist said the proposed Food and Drug Administration rules were “bizarre” in that “straight people who have frequent, anonymous, high-risk, unprotected sex with opposite-sex partners still face no deferral at all.”

America’s Blood Centers, The American Red Cross, the American Medical Association and the American Association of Blood Banks, all support lifting the U.S Food and Drug Administration blood bans on gay and bisexual men.

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