Study shows gay & bisexual men eager to donate blood if allowed

Advocates have highlighted the results of a new study which shows many gay & bisexual men (GBM) who are seeking to give blood choose not to, rather than abstaining from sexual contact for 12 months.

The study, funded by the Australian Research Council and published in Transfusion peer-reviewed journal, concluded that there is a “high level of willingness and desire to donate blood among GBM.”

Currently men and trans folks who have sex with men are required to avoid sexual activity for 12 months, as part of outdated and discriminatory policies aimed at reducing transmission of HIV.

The study questioned 1595 gay and bisexual+ men in Australia, with 77.7% of respondents saying they would give blood if allowed, while 74.7% believed the current celibacy rules are homophobic.

“However, rather than abstaining from sex in order to donate, many men comply with the deferral policy and do not donate,” the study concluded.

“A less conservative deferral policy may increase donations from GBM.”

LGBTIQ+ advocacy group just.equal have been calling for an end to the 12-month deferral period for gay/bi men and transgender people, and ramped up calls as COVID-19 increases the need for more donations.

“This study confirms that there would be a substantial increase in safe blood available to save lives if sexually active gay and bisexual men are allowed to donate,” just.equal’s Rodney Croome said.

“With the blood supply decreasing because of the pandemic, it’s time for Australia to adopt a more rational blood donation policy that screens donors for sexual safety rather than gender of sexual partner.”

“I urge supporters of an improved blood donor policy to write to Australia’s health ministers urging a new policy that focuses on safe sex not gay sex.”

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has proposed the current twelve month celibacy period before gay and bisexual men donate be reduced to three months, a change that the states and territories have been asked to assent to.

Croome and just.equal believe a three-month celibacy period will not remove discrimination or increase available blood.

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