Renewed calls for end of bans on gay blood donation

Allowing gay men to donate blood would help solve Australia’s blood supply crisis according to LGBTIQA+ advocacy group, Just.Equal.

The Red Cross Lifeblood Service has issued a call for donors as blood supplies drop due to cancelled donations resulting from an upsurge of colds, flu and Covid.

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said,

“Just.Equal wants Australia to follow the path of many other countries, including the UK, Canada, France and Germany, by adopting a a blood donor policy that focusses on risky sexual activity, not gender of sexual partner.”

“Those countries have dropped their old ban on blood donation by gay men, and bisexual men and trans women who have sex with men, and instead assess every donor for their individual risk.”

“By our estimate, the adoption of individual risk assessment in Australia would result in an extra 25,000 litres a year to save the lives of Australians in need.”

“Individual risk assessment would also make the blood supply safer because it would pick up heterosexual people who are at high risk.”

“This is particularly important at a time when rates of HIV among heterosexual Australians is increasing.”

“Individual risk assessment is a win/win because it removes discrimination and increases the supply of safe blood.”

Lifeblood has made it easier for people with tattoos to give blood and has sought permission to do the same for people who lived in the UK when Mad Cow Disease was a problem.

Rodney Croome called on Lifeblood to urgently conduct a review of the current gay blood ban with a view to adopting individual risk assessment.

Just.Equal commissioned its own report, conducted by Dr Sharon Dane, which examined the medical evidence for replacing the current ban with individual risk assessment and endorsed the move.

A spokesperson for LifeBlood says the situation in Australia is different to countries like Canada.

The spokesperson said they “understood the rules would exclude some groups”, but that although gay and bisexual men in declared monogamous relationships were low risk, they were “still at a higher risk of exposure than people in heterosexual relationships”.

“It makes sense for the UK and Canada to change their approach because the distribution of new and existing across their populations is evenly spread,” they said in a statement to the ABC.

“Based on our HIV patterns, we believe this would not maintain the present safety of the blood supply.” the Lifeblood representative said.

While gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are prohibited from donating without an abstinence period, Lifeblood is calling for other Australians to come forward.

Blood Donors urgently needed

The organisation says it needs 17,500 people to donate blood over the next week, as an escalating cold and flu season hits supplies.

Executive Director, Cath Stone said Australia needs to act now to boost stocks of A, O and B blood groups, under pressure due to cancellations and no shows.

“We know people are sick with cold and flu. We know people’s children are unwell and keeping donors at home. And we know many people are still having to isolate due to COVID. We also know that these circumstances are causing large numbers of appointment cancellations and no-shows.

“We are pleading with anyone who is well and healthy to book a donation today and encourage your friends and family to do the same.”

Cath Stone said Lifeblood continues to see up to half of all appointments cancelled.

“We have 15,500 blood donations booked in for the next week, but based on current cancellations and no-shows, we know a large number of these won’t result in a donation. And we still have thousands of appointments that need to be filled.

“There are patients in hospital right now who are relying on blood for cancer treatment, surgery, accidents and complicated births. If you don’t know your blood type, donating is a great way to find out. Every blood donation can help to save up to three lives,” Stone said.

OIP Staff

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