Red Cross Lifeblood double-standard on tatts and GBT donors


red cross lifeblood
Image: @lifebloodau Twitter

Red Cross Lifeblood recently eased restrictions on tattooed donors. From last week, Aussies can walk straight from a tattoo parlour and into a Lifeblood centre to donate plasma. But note the word ‘straight’. The restrictions on donations from gay, bisexual and trans (GBT) donors remain.

GBT donors must still abstain from sex for twelve months before giving blood. Earlier in 2020, Australia’s blood authorities announced they would reduce the twelve-month celibacy period to three months. However, they have so far failed to act on that announcement.

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*The Australian Red Cross renamed their blood service Australian Red Cross Lifeblood in 2019.

The policy on tattoos changed following a study conducted by Red Cross Lifeblood and the University of NSW Kirby Institute. That study found people tattooed in licenced parlours could safely donate blood plasma. Previously, Red Cross Lifeblood insisted on a  four-month waiting period between obtaining a tattoo and donating blood plasma. Despite the easing of restrictions on plasma donations, the deferral period remains in place for whole blood.

Plasma

Plasma is a yellowish liquid component of blood. It carries cells and proteins throughout the body and makes up about 55% of the body’s total blood volume. Eighteen different life-saving products used in medical procedures derive from blood plasma.

Rodney Croome from just-equal said advocates welcomed the easing of the restriction on inked-up donors. He said solid scientific research justified the decision. However, he described Red Cross Lifeblood’s attitude to GBT donors as unscientific.

Similar scientific research from the around the world shows that replacing the current gay, bisexual and transgender ban with individual risk assessment would lower disease risk and increase the supply of safe blood. Yet, Lifeblood is impervious to this science.

“It is a double standard for Lifeblood to allow donations from tattoo recipients but not GBT people, and it is a double-standard for them to heed science in one instance and ignore it in the other.

“The only explanation for this double standard is that Lifeblood is acting out of prejudice, or in fear of other people’s prejudice, neither of which is an acceptable basis for public health policy.”

Just.equal and PFLAG

PFLAG and just.equal encourage supporters of a better blood donor policy to email their state health ministers.

In addition, just.equal launched a declaration for health professionals who want a safe, more abundant and less discriminatory blood supply.


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.