PARIS (Reuters) - France has decided to end a more than 30-year old law that banned homosexual men from donating blood, a measure originally put in place to stop the spread of diseases such as HIV.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Wednesday discrimination against potential blood donors on the basis of sexual orientation was unacceptable because it presumed that homosexual men all had HIV.
After a review of the measure since 2012, Touraine opted to lift the exclusion that has been in place since 1983 and was subsequently reinforced three times.
"Giving blood is a generous act that cannot be conditioned by sexual orientation," Touraine said in a speech dedicated to the issue.
"On the basis of proposals that were made to me ... I have decided to put an end to the exclusion from blood donation of men that have sex with men."
Touraine said blood donation from homosexual men would be allowed in France from next spring and would be monitored under strict conditions already in place.
France has the highest rate of HIV among homosexual men in Europe. Half of those newly infected with HIV between 2003 and 2008 were men who had sex with other men, according to the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).
The court ruled in April that banning homosexual men from giving blood may be justified where strictly necessary and only if there are no alternatives for preventing the transmission of severe infectious diseases.
Under EU law, people who are at high risk of contracting severe infectious diseases because of their sexual behavior may be permanently banned from blood donation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 recommended easing the ban on homosexual blood donors to men who have abstained from sex with other men for a year prior to a donation, similar to policies in Britain and Australia.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)