New rules for blood donation start on 31st January, but is it still discriminatory?

From January 31st gay men will be able to donate blood after a three month celibacy period rather than twelve, but advocates say the celibacy period should be abolished altogether and replaced with screening for individual risk.

The Red Cross Blood Service, Lifeblood, has now confirmed on its LGBTIQ donor webpage that from January 31st the new three-month celibacy period will come into effect.

The celibacy-period reduction from a year to three months was announced last year by the body that governs blood donation, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and confirmed by Commonwealth, state and territory health ministers.

But according to national LGBTIQ advocacy group, just.equal, the change will neither lift the discrimination against gay men who want to donate blood, nor significantly increase the supply of safe blood for those in need.

just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said the new rules still caused stigma.

“The three-month celibacy period for men who have sex with men continues to stigmatise us as a threat to public health and is has no place in a nation that allows gay male couples to marry.”

“It will not significantly increase the supply of safe blood because the number of gay men who last had sex less than twelve months ago but more than three months ago is negligible.”

“Research and reform overseas shows that shifting to a policy that screens potential donors for their individual risk regardless of the gender of their sexual partner removes discrimination and increases the amount of safe blood available.”

“This is why more and more countries are moving away from gay bans to a focus on individual risk, with the British Government and the incoming Biden administration committing to do the same in the UK and US respectively.”

Croome said some bisexual men and transgender women are also prohibited from blood donation if they are in a sexual relationship with a man.

“The idea of celibacy periods dates from the 1980s when medical science wasn’t clear how HIV was transmitted or detected.”

“It’s time to move on from forty-year-old fears and implement a policy based on the latest medical science.”

A number of countries have replaced their gay blood bans with individual risk assessment including Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Poland and Hungary. The UK and US are committed to doing the same in 2021.

Source: Media Release

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