Calls for Australia to follow UK lead on gay, bi & trans blood donation ban

National LGBTIQ+ advocacy group just.equal has ramped up their campaign to end the ban on gay, bi and trans folks donating blood here in Australia, following a recent decision out of the UK.

This week the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs made the recommendation that all donors be assessed for individual risk, rather than exclude gay/bi men who are sexually active.

Here in Australia, the ban applies to all sexually-active gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women who have sex with men.

“The ban on gay donors, and some bi and trans donors, stigmatises us as a threat to public health and reduces the amount of safe blood available for those in need,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“It also fosters the false impression that all heterosexual people are safe to donate even when their sexual activity is not safe – it’s no coincidence Australia’s last case of HIV transmission through transfusion was traced back to a heterosexual woman who was not aware she was at risk.”

“We have written to all federal, state and territory health ministers asking them to support blood equality and individual risk assessment, or at least ask the nation’s blood authorities to seriously consider the UK model.”

Croome also raised concerns that not one Australian federal, state or territory health minister considered individual risk assessment as an option when they were asked earlier this year to ratify the proposed reduction in the current celibacy period for gay, bi and trans donors from twelve months to three.

“After the announcement in April this year that Australia’s blood authorities wanted to amend the gay blood ban, just.equal wrote to all federal, state and territory health ministers asking them to support blood equality, adopt individual risk assessment, and urge Australia’s blood authorities to at least consider the option, but their subsequent correspondence with us shows that not one did.”

“This is particularly disappointing given current members of state and territory governments, including ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, have previously called for an end to the gay blood ban.

“Mr Barr and other MPs missed the opportunity to challenge unjust discrimination and increase the supply of safe blood.”

“We acknowledge that the Tasmanian Government passed on community concerns to Lifeblood, and that other governments may have done this too. But passing on a stigmatised community’s concerns falls far short of standing with that community.”

“We urge federal, state and territory leaders to seize the opportunity offered by blood equality in the UK and bring Australia’s irrational, outdated and stigmatising gay, bi and trans blood ban to an end.”

The Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson, Senator Janet Rice, has also written to Australia’s health ministers, copied in on a letter to Adjunct Professor John Skerritt of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

“I welcome the change announced in October, reducing the time limit on accepting blood donations from men who have sex with men from twelve months to three. However more must be done,” Senator Rice wrote.

“I ask that you change Australia’s approach, to adopt a position that matches international standards.

“This would send a clear signal to Australia’s LGBTIQ+ communities, recognising and valuing the contribution they make, including through blood donations.

“It would provide a positive message to all men who have sex with men in the community if their donations are evaluated on the basis of the safety of their sexual activity, rather than the gender of their sexual partner.”

“Failing that, I ask that you undertake an investigation to examine the evidence and these new international standards, to see how Australia’s frame work can be improved.”

OIP Staff

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