WA Health considering changing wait times for blood donations

Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook has confirmed to OUTinPerth that he has asked the WA Health Department to review the waiting times for gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

“The McGowan Government pursues excellence in care across all treatment disciplines, and for all members of the community. I have asked the Department of Health to consider making changes to wait times.” Minister Cook said.

A longstanding nationwide policy has prevented gay and bisexual men from donating blood for decades unless they abstain from sexual activity for a period of 12 months. The current policy which was implemented at the outbreak of the AIDS crisis has been criticised for not being updated as testing methods for HIV have improved.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently recommended that the wait time for gay and bisexual men be reduced from twelve months to three. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has asked all state health ministers to indicate if they support the proposed change.

A recent study has shown that gay and bisexual men are eager to donate blood, but do not as they observe the 12-month abstinence requirement. Advocacy group just.equal have called for the abstinence period to be removed completely.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the McGowan Labor government was committed to improving health outcomes for LGBTI people and removing barriers and discrimination.

“In 2019, the McGowan Government launched the WA LGBTI Health Strategy 2019-2020. As the first of its kind in WA, the strategy strives to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBTI populations.” Cook said.

“It sets out clear priorities and outcomes for the WA health system, Health Service Providers and health services on policy development and service delivery to achieve optimal health and wellbeing outcomes for LGBTI people.”

Several overseas jurisdictions have recently reduced their wait times or completely removed them all together.  Most recently Brazil completely removed the policy after their Supreme Court ruled it was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Graeme Watson

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