Advocates renew calls for changes to blood ban as donations needed

Just.Equal Australia have renewed their calls for gay & bi men and trans folks to be able to give blood as donations drop due to Covid-19.

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service has appealed for 3,200 more donors as the latest Covid-19 wave sees an increase in existing donors who are infected and self-isolating.

Currently, gay and bisexual men, and some trans women, must abstain from sex for three months before donating, a policy which a recent report from Just.Equal found is out of step with international research.

The report cites a range of changes to blood donation rules in Greece, the UK, Canada, the USA, the Netherlands and more, recommending Australia moves to a UK-style model of individual risk assessment for blood donation.

“A significant part of the Covid-related shortfall could be made up by allowing donations from those gay and bisexual men, and trans women, whose blood is safe but who are currently barred,” Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“Since the beginning of 2022, Greece and France have joined the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Israel and Argentina and a rising number of other countries in removing former gay blood bans.”

“Meanwhile, the Canadian Government has said it will remove the ban and 22 US senators have written to that country’s blood authorities asking for the same.”

Croome said Just.Equal supports an alternate policy of screening all potential donors for their individual risk.

“Other countries have replaced their former gay blood bans with individuals risk assessment, with a resulting increase in safe blood,” Croome continued.

“In Australia, individual risk assessment for all donors will make the blood supply even safer than it is because the proportion of gay men newly-infected with HIV is decreasing dramatically, while the proportion of heterosexual people newly infected is increasing.”

“If Australia’s blood service and blood authorities refuse to go down the path of individual risk assessment they need to shoulder some responsibility for blood shortages.”

Earlier this month Greece removed restrictions on gay & bi men and trans women donating blood. Here in Australia the celibacy period was shortened to three months from twelve by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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