Australian gay blood donation campaigners have welcomed a decision in the United States to allow gay men to give blood, and urged Australia to follow suit.
The US has ditched a three-month abstinence period before gay men can give blood and will instead ask questions about sexual risk of all donors regardless of their sexual orientation, an approach known as ‘individual risk assessment’.
In Australia the Red Cross Lifeblood Service has no plans to allow safe gay men to donate whole blood, despite individual risk assessment now being the approach in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Argentina and many other countries.
Instead, Lifeblood wants gay men, and bisexual men and trans women who have sex with men, all of whom can currently not give whole blood, to be able to give blood plasma.
Let Us Give spokesperson, Thomas Buxereau applauded the US for replacing its gay blood ban with individual risk assessment, and called on Australia’s blood authorities to do the same.
“Allowing blood donations from gay men, and bisexual men and trans women who have sex with men, who are safe to give, will mean a new source of safe blood for those Australians in need,” Mr Buxereau said.
“Australian gay, bisexual and trans people who are currently blocked from donating blood want to be able to save lives in the same way as our counterparts in the UK, Canada and the US.”
Researcher, Dr Sharon Dane, said international research shows there is no meaningful risk from allowing gay men, and bisexual men and trans women who have sex with men, to give blood under the conditions now applying in the US.
“Under the system of individual risk assessment in the UK, Canada, US and other countries, every donor is asked if they have had anal sex with a new partner or multiple partners in the last three months. If they say ‘no’ they can donate.
“The Australian Lifeblood Service has said this may deter a significant number of heterosexual donors but the international evidence has shown this is not the case.”
“Rather than allowing whole blood donation by gay men, and bisexual men and trans women who have sex with men, Lifeblood wants to only allow plasma donation.
“But this does not address the regular shortages of whole blood and still means gay, bisexual and trans people are not treated equally.
“Canada and Israel trialled plasma donation for gay men but quickly abandoned those trials and moved on to equal treatment for all donors.
“The so-called ‘plasma pathway’ is a dead-end Australia should not go down.”
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