Australia’s Red Cross Lifeblood donation service says long-standing restrictions on gay and bi blood donors will be eased early next year.
Currently, the Lifeblood donation service refuses gay and bi blood donors who have had sex with men in the past 12 months.
In April, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved a proposal to lower that celibacy period to three months.
A Lifeblood spokesperson says the changes to the policy will come into effect early next year.
“Earlier this year, Lifeblood made a submission to the TGA to reduce the wait time for donating blood for men who have sex with men from the current 12 months to three months since the last sexual contact,” a spokesperson said.
“The TGA, federal and state governments have all approved our submission. The change will come into effect in early 2021.”
The spokesperson said Lifeblood is in the process of updating their systems. Lifeblood is also working in conjunction with state and territory governments to update questionnaire forms.
“Lifeblood would like to make it easier for all Australians to give blood, while ensuring Australia’s blood and blood products are as safe as possible for blood recipients,” the spokesperson said.
LGBTIQ advocates want gay blood donor changes to go further
Australia enacted the 12-month deferral period for gay donors in 2000. Before then, they were banned from donating blood altogether.
The new policy follows similar reductions in the UK, Canada and the USA from 12 months to three.
However LGBTIQ advocates argue the change will make little difference to most sexually active gay men and should go further.
They say international research shows blood donation services can safely reduce the deferral period further, due to huge strides in HIV testing.
Last weekend, LGBTIQ advocacy group just.equal accused Lifeblood of a “double standard” for abolishing entirely a four-month deferral period for tattooed donors on a scientific basis, but not gay and bi men.
The group wants a “more effective” blood donation policy focusing on “safety of sexual activity, rather than gender of sexual partner.”
A recent study found 78 per cent of gay and bisexual Australian men would donate blood if allowed.
However, they don’t, in order to comply with the current 12-month abstinence restriction.
‘One in three Australians need blood in their lifetime’
This week, South Australian Greens MLC Tammy Franks will move a motion in her state’s parliament to prioritise the changes.
“We know that blood does not have a long shelf life. We always need blood and blood donors,” she said.
Franks said one in three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime. One blood donation can save up to three lives.
“To continue to discriminate against groups, such as men who have had sex with men in the last 12 months, is not only stigmatising, it is not best health practice,” she said.
“Our approach should be based on the science, not on outmoded stigma and predjudice.”
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