by SHIBU THOMAS
Lifeblood Australia’s decision to work towards lifting the four-decade old blanket ban on gay blood donations has been welcomed by LGBTQI advocates.
In a piece in the Star Observer, Adj. Prof. Stephen Cornelissen AM, CEO of Lifeblood wrote that the plasma pathway would be implemented in Australia in 2024. This would allow “everyone, regardless of their sexual activity, including gay and bisexual men, and anyone taking PrEP, to donate plasma without any wait period”.
More importantly, Lifeblood said it also plans to make a submission to the TGA to allow “gender-neutral approach or ‘Individual risk assessment’ for blood donation”. If approved, this would lead to lifting of the four-decade old ban on gay blood donations.
Lifting Gay Blood Ban
Dr. Sharon Dane, spokesperson for Let Us Give, welcomed the announcement. “”We are very happy Lifeblood is now openly working towards the position we have been advocating for some time. We have repeatedly said the supply of safe blood would be optimised if gay and bi men and trans women are able to donate whole blood under an individual risk assessment regime, as well as being able to donate plasma,” said Dr Dane.
According to Let Us Give, Lifeblood’s earlier “preference” for only allowing plasma donations would have “replaced an old form of discrimination with a new form, effectively making gay and bisexual men and trans women second-tier donors.”
“Assessing all whole blood donors for their individual risk will ensure there is a new source of safe whole blood and that the blood supply is less discriminatory. This is a small but significant step towards the kind of blood equality thousands of gay, bi and trans Australians have been seeking for years,” said Dr Dane.
Inclusive Blood Donation Policy
Currently, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and trans women who have sex with men, have to abstain from sex for three months before donating blood, including plasma. The ban was put into place in the 1980s following the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands and some other countries have replaced the blanket ban on gay blood with a more inclusive policy by implementing individual risk assessments.
Under the system all bllod donors are asked the same sexual risk questions, inclusing if they have had new or multiple partners in the last three months and if they have had anal sex.
“Currently, gay and bisexual men and transgender women must abstain from sex for three months before donating blood… Clearly, Lifeblood’s research has shown that individual risk assessment is widely supported and that it works,” Dr Dane added.