Australian advocates call for action as UK lifts blood ban for gay/bi men

Equality advocates have called on the Australian Lifeblood Service to follow the lead of its UK counterpart by lifting its blanket ban on donation by sexually active gay & bi men and shifting to individual risk assessment for all donors.

The calls come as the UK moves from banning blood donation for men who have sex with men, to assessing the risk of individual donors this week, kicking off World Blood Donor Day (June 14th).

“The UK approach is win-win because it means there will be more safe blood for those in need, and less stigma and discrimination faced by those gay, bisexual and transgender people who have been unfairly excluded,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“Risk of infection with HIV and other diseases through blood transfusion arises from the safety of a donor’s sexual activity, not the gender of their sexual partner, and the UK policy recognises this fact by shifting to an assessment of each individual’s risk.”

“We urge the Australian Lifeblood Service to lift its gay ban as soon as possible so that Australians in need can benefit from more safe blood and so there is less unnecessary discrimination in obtaining that blood.”

As of this week in England, Scotland and Wales, the ban on sexually active gay & bi men donating has been lifted. Instead, all donors will now be asked if they have had sex with a new partner in the last three months, and if so, whether they have had anal sex with that partner. If they answer in the affirmative, they will be deferred from donation.

In Australia, gay & bisexual men who have had sex with men in the last three months is automatically excluded from blood donation, no matter if they are in a monogamous relationship or how safe their sexual activity may have been.

Any trans woman in a sexual relationship with a cisgender man is also deferred, leading to discrimination highlighted last week in Parliament by Senator Janet Rice, where a trans woman was barred from blood donation but not her cisgender husband.

“In the wake of developments in the UK and other countries we will increase our advocacy in Australia,” Croome continued.

“Our goal is to have the blanket ban on gay blood donation lifted well before World Blood Donation Day 2022, and replaced with a new policy of screening all donors for the safety of their sexual activity.”

OIP Staff

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