ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced he will call for federal Labor to change the party’s platform on gay blood donors. The Labor Party hold their national conference this weekend.
Australia has a 12-month deferral period on donating blood for men who have sex with another man in the last 12 months. Although meant to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, the measure effectively bans gay men from donating blood.
Experts say recent scientific advancements in HIV testing now allow for a safe reduction of the time frame. Consequently, that shorter deferral period would allow more gay donors to assist the Red Cross Blood Service meet supply shortages.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the Sydney Morning Herald he therefore wants the Labor party platform amended to reflect the new circumstance.
“The current 12-month deferral period for men who have sex with men is excessive and beyond that required to maintain a safe blood supply.”
“Labor will seek to reduce or eliminate the deferral period for men who have sex with men. This will increase blood supply and reduce inequality and social harm caused by this discriminatory policy.”
ACT leader wants change
The ACT leader is calling for the change after the Territory’s parliament passed a similar motion.
“Earlier this year the ACT Legislative Assembly passed a motion indicating its support for an evidence-based approach to deferral rules which also work to reduce stigma against gay men,” Barr said.
“The ACT government previously flagged this issue at COAG health council meetings and through the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’s review of deferral rules.
“My representations at ALP National Conference are another step in ongoing advocacy on this important issue.”
Canberran and AIDS Action Council board member Wayne Herbert said he backed the chief minister’s plan. He believed in dropping the exclusion period for gay blood donors from two to three months.
“There have been several occasions where I have sought to donate blood and I have been shocked that such an exclusion existed, particularly given the research and advances in testing,” he said.
Australian Red Cross policy
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service explains the policy on its website.
“Scientific modelling shows that overall, even men in a declared exclusive gay relationship have, on average, a 50 times greater risk of HIV infection, compared to heterosexual Australians with a new sexual partner.
“The Blood Service is not discriminating against anyone based on their sexuality; rather the policies are based on assessment of risk.
“Deferrals are in place for a number of potential donors who may be more likely to be exposed to infection or present other risks to the recipient.”
AFAO wants a reduction in deferral period
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) said in October scientific advancements mean that 12-month period is “unreasonable.” AFAO wants a reduction in the deferral period.
“Australia doesn’t want to change its really high rate of success in terms of blood supply safety, but it still needs to be responsive to the scientific evidence we have,” AFAO President Bridget Haire said.
“The fact is 12 months is just way too long. It’s unreasonable and unnecessary, and it’s deeply unfair, the science tells us that.
“We have really good testing of blood now. Blood is tested for all of the relevant viruses, both the presence of the [HIV] virus as well as the presence of antibodies.
“Even if you look at the [HIV test] that takes the longest period of time to conduct, it’s one month. If you double it as a kind of buffer for peace of mind, that’s two months.
“The question is, why aren’t we lowering the 12-month exclusion to two months? That is very reasonable. It is safe and perfectly scientifically relevant.”
(Top left photo via Facebook)
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