The Let Us Give campaign has welcomed Lifeblood’s confirmation that it will seek to lift the current “gay blood ban” which prevents sexually active men-who-have-sex-with-men and some trans women from donating blood regardless of what their sexual practices are.
The Government had already approved a Lifeblood proposal to allow sexually active gay men who practice safer sex to donate blood plasma, but not whole blood donation unless they have abstained from sex for at least three months.
Now Lifeblood wants to adopt a model of blood safety screening whereby it will assess all donors for their individual risk rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Earlier this week Lifeblood CEO, Prof Stephen Cornelissen, announced that Lifeblood will make “a submission to the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) in 2024 seeking approval to commence individual risk assessment for blood donation.”
Until now Lifeblood had championed “plasma-only” donation for gay and bisexual men and transgender women, and had been non-committal towards “whole blood” donation where all donors are screened for individual risk factors rather than the sex of their partners.
Let Us Give spokesperson, Dr Sharon Dane welcomed the news, saying, “We are very happy Lifeblood is now openly committed to the position we have been advocating for some time.”
“We have repeatedly said the supply of safe blood would be optimised if gay and bi men and trans women are able to donate whole blood under an individual risk assessment regime, as well as being able to donate blood plasma.”
“Lifeblood’s previous preference of only allowing plasma donation would have replaced an old form of discrimination with a new form, effectively making gay and bisexual men and trans women second-tier donors.”
“Assessing all whole blood donors for their individual risk will ensure there is a new source of safe whole blood and that the blood supply is less discriminatory.”
“This is an important step towards the kind of blood equality tens of thousands of gay, bi and trans Australians have been seeking for years.”
“We will continue our campaign to ensure there is public and governmental support for blood equality.”
Under the system advocated by Let Us Give, all whole blood donors would be asked the same sexual risk question, specifically, whether they have had anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months.
They would be allowed to donate if they answer “no.”
All donated blood in Australia is already tested for blood borne viruses before being entered into the blood supply.
This system, called individual risk assessment, effectively lifts the current gay blood ban and has already been adopted in a number of countries similar to Australia, including Britain, Canada, the US and the Netherlands.
Lifeblood has been researching attitudes towards individual risk assessment among existing donors and how the system works overseas.
“Clearly, Lifeblood’s research has shown that individual risk assessment is widely supported and that it works”, Dr Dane said.
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