Lesbians in China, banned in 1998 from donating blood as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS, have now been "legally allowed" to donate. However, men who have sex with men are still barred from donating.
"The nation easily believed that being a homosexual equates to AIDS. Inadequate understanding of the two things was the main reason why 'homosexuals' was listed as a group not allowed to donate blood, as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS," sexologist Li Yinhe told the Global Times daily.
The amended "Whole Blood and Component Donor Selection Requirements", released by the ministry of health that allowed lesbians to donate, took effect July 1.
A lesbian named Xian, director of an NGO supporting lesbians and bisexuals, said she was told she could not donate blood following the earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008.
"It's scientific that the policy doesn't mention homosexual identity but only fences off some who have certain sex behaviours, because AIDS is not caused by one's homosexual identity but improper sexual behaviour," Xian said.
Sexologist Li Yinhe said that as China learnt about AIDS and homosexuality at roughly the same time, in the 1980s.
The first account of people contracting AIDS came in a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 1981. It mentioned five men had contracted a disease thought to be caused by sexual contact.
The first case of AIDS in China was reported in 1985 when an Argentine visitor, also an AIDS patient, died during a trip to the country.
A 27-year-old Beijing resident and a lesbian named Huijin said gay men should also have the same rights.
"In Western countries, gay men can donate if they haven't had sex for a period of time," she said.
In December 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration prohibited men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977 from donating blood.
However, Britain in November 2011 allowed gay men to donate blood, if they have abstained from sex for 12 months.