Doctors call for end to Australia’s gay blood donation bans


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Photos: just.equal/Adobe Stock

A Melbourne doctor has joined dozens of other medical professional to sign a new declaration calling for changes to Australian gay and trans blood donor policies.

Currently, Australia’s Lifeblood donation service refuses male donors who have had sex with men in the past 12 months. In April, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved a reduction of that period from twelve months to three.

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The change is before Australia’s health ministers and is yet to come into effect. But LGBTIQ group just.equal wants the new policy to go further. In a new video, Melbourne doctor Nick McIntosh explains why.

“As a doctor I’m dedicated to saving lives but as a gay man I can’t give blood,” Dr McIntosh said.

“I want to see the current gay blood ban lifted and replaced with individual risk assessment for all potential blood donors.

“The science shows us that this would make the blood supply safer. It would also mean there’ll be more blood available to save lives.”

just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome urged other medical professionals to share their support and sign the declaration.

“Research from countries that moved from banning gay, bisexual and transgender donors to individual risk assessment clearly shows the blood supply is safer, more plentiful and less discriminatory as a result.”

“I urge medical professionals who support a better blood donation policy for Australia to sign the declaration.”

“We will present the declaration to Australia’s health ministers, as [they consider] the changes to blood donor policy.”

Campaign sends 5000 emails to health ministers on gay blood donor bans

Announcing the change in April, the Lifeblood service said, “Deferral policies are regularly reviewed and are underpinned by the most up-to-date clinical and scientific evidence, so that Australia maintains one of the safest blood supplies in the world.

“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 recipients.”

In response, just.equal and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) began a letter-writing campaign calling for individual risk assessment.

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Croome said 5000 people had emailed Australia’s health ministers. He said ministers in the ACT, West Australia and Tasmanian governments had heard the message.

He said the three-month celibacy period does not go far enough, calling it “window dressing.”

“Forcing gay, bisexual and transgender people to be celibate for three months before they can donate blood does not increase the supply of safe blood,” he said.

“It continues to stimgatise us as a threat to public health. Only fear and prejudice stop Australia moving to individual risk assessment.”

The TGA’s three-month recommendation matches similar moves in the UK, Canada and the USA to reduce the deferral time to three months.

But lobbying for blood donor reform has grown significantly in recent months. Experts say restrictions can be safely eased due to huge strides in HIV testing technology.

GLAAD in the US recently released declarations from medical professionals and politicians in support of reform. UK group Freedom to Donate has also released a statement supporting reform from British politicians.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.