Buenos Aires (AFP) - A ban on homosexual men donating blood was lifted Wednesday in Argentina, a move the gay community had long demanded.
The country joined others in the region, including Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru, which have ended similar restrictions in recent years.
At a signing ceremony for the resolutions lifting the ban, Health Minister Daniel Gollan said, "For a long time, people believed that homosexual relationships were more risky than heterosexual relationships" in terms of contracting HIV, a perception that had led to the initial ban.
"What we are doing today is scientifically and technically accurate," he continued, and is "based on a medical approach that replaces that old concept of 'risk groups.'"
The policy change was made "in order to move toward a national blood system that is safe, caring and inclusive" Gollan had said in a statement Tuesday.
It follows a campaign by gay advocacy groups that had lasted more than 15 years.
"It is a great joy to be able to take this step toward equality and non-discrimination in one of the last realms that explicitly excluded us from the full enjoyment of our rights," Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender, said in a statement.
Many other countries, including Costa Rica, Brazil, El Salvador and Venezuela, still have blood-donation bans in place.
The US Food and Drug Administration recommended lifting the United States' ban earlier this year -- as long as the men have abstained from sex for a year before giving blood.
Similar policies to that proposed change exist in Australia, Britain, Japan and Sweden, sparking criticism from advocacy groups who see them as still discriminatory.
French President Francois Hollande promised to lift his country's ban during his campaign, but has so far not done so.