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Australian gay blood push to grow as UK reforms policy

Equality advocates have called on the Australian Lifeblood Service to follow the lead of its UK counterpart by lifting its blanket policy on deferring blood donation by sexually active gay and bisexual men.

The UK’s shift to assessing the risk of individual donors began on Monday’s World Blood Donor Day.

Just.equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome called the UK approach “a win-win”, saying that it will mean more blood for those in need as well as less stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“Risk of infection with HIV and other [viruses] through blood transfusion arises from the [nature] of a donor’s sexual activity, not the gender of their sexual partner, and the UK policy recognises this fact by shifting to an assessment of each individual’s risk,” said Croome.

He called on the Australian Lifeblood Service to amend its policy as soon as possible so that Australians in need can benefit from an increased blood supply and to remove unnecessary discrimination in donation.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, all donors from this week will be asked if they have had sex with a new partner in the last three months, and if so, whether they have had anal sex with that partner. 

If they answer ‘yes’, they will be deferred from donation.

In Australia, any man who has had sex with another man in the last three months is automatically excluded from blood donation, regardless of monogamy or HIV prevention practices such as condoms, PrEP, and undetectable viral load.

Any trans woman in a sexual relationship with a cis man is also deferred, leading to the situation highlighted last week in Parliament by Senator Janet Rice where a trans woman was barred from blood donation, but her cis husband was not.

“In the wake of developments in the UK and other countries, we will increase our advocacy in Australia,” said Croome.

Just.equal aims to see Australian blood donation policy overhauled before next year’s World Blood Donor Day.

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