LGBTIQ+ advocates say revised blood donation ban is not enough

Australian LGBTIQ+ advocates continue to urge the government to lift the ban on blood donations for men who have sex with men, asking to shift the focus from gay sex to unsafe sex.

The Australian Red Cross’ blood service Lifeblood has announced the blood donation governing body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has agreed to reduce the period gay men must abstain from sex before giving blood from twelve months to three.

The decision must now be approved by all federal, state and territory governments with a potential start date later this year.

Advocacy group just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said these changes will not significantly increase the amount of safe blood, as it leaves many gay men still unable to donate.

“At a time of crisis when blood shortages are looming, it is vital that all Australians who are not at risk of passing on blood-borne diseases are able to donate, including those gay men who are not at risk,” Croome said.

“The risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusion arises from unsafe sex, not gay sex, so we urge the TGA and the Red Cross Lifeblood service to adopt a new policy of screening all donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than the gender of their sexual partner.”

“Imposing a celibacy period on all sexually-active gay men before we can donate blood is a hangover from the 1980s when HIV transmission was less well understood, tests for the virus were less reliable and being gay was synonymous with having AIDS.”

“Those days are long-gone and our blood screening policy should be updated accordingly.”

Croome also said the reduced deferral period is not a step forward.

“At best the new celibacy period is window dressing to make a bad policy look better,” Croome continued.

“A three-month celibacy rule for gay blood donation is such a weak and ineffective response to the pandemic even the Trump administration has adopted it.”

“It may actually entrench the notion that gay men pose a special threat to public health by making the ban on our blood seem less unreasonable.”

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