‘Let Us Give’ Campaign welcomes changes from Lifeblood

The Let Us Give campaign has welcomed a change in language from Lifeblood in relation to gay men donating blood, saying it shows a new openness.

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service has updated its website, saying, for the first time, that it is working towards gender neutral individual risk assessment for all donors.

Up until now Lifeblood has championed plasma-only donation for gay and bisexual men and transgender women and the Let Us Give campaign say the organisation has until now been non-committal towards whole blood donation under a regime where all donors – gay, straight, cisgender and transgender – are screened for their individual risk.

Let Us Give spokesperson, Dr Sharon Dane, said it was great to see progress on this issue.

“We are very happy Lifeblood is now openly working towards the position we have been advocating for some time.”

“We have repeatedly said the supply of safe blood would be optimised if gay and bi men and trans women are able to donate whole blood under an individual risk assessment regime, as well as being able to donate plasma.”

“Lifeblood’s previous preference of only allowing plasma donation would have replaced an old form of discrimination with a new form, effectively making gay and bisexual men and trans women second-tier donors.”

“Assessing all whole blood donors for their individual risk will ensure there is a new source of safe whole blood and that the blood supply is less discriminatory.”

“This is a small but significant step towards the kind of blood equality thousands of gay, bi and trans Australians have been seeking for years.”

Currently, gay and bisexual men and transgender women must abstain from sex for three months before donating blood.

The Government has approved a Lifeblood proposal to allow them to donate blood plasma, but not whole blood.

Under the system advocated by Let Us Give, all whole blood donors would be asked the same sexual risk question, specifically, whether they have had anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months. They would be allowed to donate if they answer “no”.

This system, called individual risk assessment, effectively lifts the current gay blood ban and applies in a number of countries similar to Australia, including Britain, Canada, the US and the Netherlands.

Lifeblood has been researching attitudes towards individual risk assessment among existing donors and how the system works overseas.

“Clearly, Lifeblood’s research has shown that individual risk assessment is widely supported and that it works”, Dr Dane said.

The organisation’s website now says they want to change to.

“Lifeblood wants change too and we want to propose donation options that allow as many people as possible to donate, including those with new or multiple partners and the tens of thousands taking PrEP1, an antiretroviral mediation to prevent HIV.” the website says.

“To this end, we have been working towards two approaches:

  • A ‘plasma pathway’ that will allow everyone, regardless of their sexual activity, including gay and bisexual men, and anyone taking PrEP, to donate plasma without any wait period at all.
  • A gender-neutral approach or ‘Individual risk assessment’ for blood donation.

It’s not clear when the new language was added to the website, archived versions of the page from November 2023 does not include the current wording.

Graeme Watson, OUTinPerth has approached Lifeblood for comment.

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