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HEALTH

Norway to make it easier for gay men to donate blood

The government has asked the Norwegian Directorate of Health to look at changing the donor rules to make it easier for gay men to give blood, Norway’s Minister of Health announced Tuesday.

A nurse taking blood.
Norway will look at making it easier for gay men to give blood. A nurse prepares to take blood of a donor during a blood drive in France. Photo by Gulliame Souvant /AFP.

Norway’s health directorate will look at the rules for blood donation and potentially make it easier for gay men to donate blood after being asked to look at potential tweaks by the Ministry of Health.

Under current regulations, gay men have to wait 12 months to give blood from when they were last sexually active. This essentially makes it impossible for gay men in relationships to donate blood. Additionally, The same rules do not apply to heterosexual couples.

“Spokespersons for LGBT groups have said that the current rules are unreasonable. We see that other countries, including Denmark, Sweden and Canada, have recently changed their regulations for this group,” Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol said in a statement.

“To maintain confidence in the blood donor system, we must have a set of rules based on professional recommendations and common sense. It must not be unnecessarily difficult for some groups to donate blood,” the health minister added.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health would collaborate with the country’s other health authority, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, to assess changes to the rules, which see gay men quarantined from giving blood after sexual contact.

Part of the assessment would include looking at how other countries have made it easier for gay men to donate blood. The deadline for the assessment is April next year.

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HEALTH

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

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