WAAC CEO Lisa Dobrin calls for rethink on blood donation rules

Lisa Dobrin

Lisa Dobrin, the CEO of WAAC (formerly the WA AIDS Council) has called on Lifeblood and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to consider removing the discrimination that stops gay men from donating blood.

Speaking to The West Australian Dobrin said while the rules had recently been updated, reducing the amount of time gay men must abstain from having sex from twelve months to three months, Australia was still out of sync with other nations.

“While we welcome the recent reduction in the deferral period for men who have sex with men to three months, it is still inconsistent with both science and international practice,” Dobrin said.

“There are strong community calls for more people to be able to donate. We need a sensible approach that provides the largest possible pool of donors. We believe the new Federal Government and the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) can work together to further reduce the deferral period to make it consistent with science and best international practice.”

A spokesperson for Lifeblood to the newspaper that they are constantly reviewing the rules around blood donation and are currently advocating for gay men to be allowed to donate plasma without the waiting period.

“We have heard the hurt and frustration from impacted communities, and as a priority we are committed to looking at all options for change,” the spokesperson said.

Lifeblood has previously argued that the occurrence of HIV across the Australian population is not directly comparable to other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada. However LGBTIQA+ rights advocates have noted that Western Australia has a distinctly different HIV infection profile than other states in Australia – with gay and bisexual men making up a smaller amount of the overall number of new cases.

Just.Equal has argued that rather than making decisions based on statistics, Lifeblood should adopt an approach where they ask each donor about their sexual activity, regardless of their sexuality.

Last month Just.Equal Australia spokesperson, Rodney Croome, suggested the more personalised approach could see Lifeblood gain a substantial amount of donors without jeopardising safety.

“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.” Croome said.

“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.”

Graeme Watson 


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