A New Zealand mother is shocked and angry after being told her late son’s blood and tissue can’t be donated because he was gay.
Cherie Eteveneaux had hoped to donate her son Corey’s tissues to help others after his life support following a car accident had to be turned off, The Mercury has reported.
“The heart valves are used in young babies, and I thought Corey would’ve liked the idea of donating them, so that’s what we were going to do.
“But then to be told, ‘No, sorry, because he’s homosexual’—well, it was a shock and I was confused and pretty angry.”
Eteveneaux said she felt gay men were being unduly discriminated against.
“I thought we as a country [had] moved forward [from] saying HIV is a gay disease,” she said.
“Corey was a fit, healthy young man and I thought his heart valves would have been snapped up. It just doesn’t make sense.
“There are people who are suffering out there and we could have potentially helped them.”
Rules in Australia are similar: all men who have had sex—even oral sex—with another man in the last 12 months are excluded from donating blood and tissues.
“Scientific modelling shows that overall, even men in a declared exclusive gay relationship have, on average, a 50 times greater risk of HIV infection, compared to heterosexual Australians with a new sexual partner,” the Australian Red Cross website reads.
“The Blood Service is not discriminating against anyone based on their sexuality; rather the policies are based on assessment of risk.
“Deferrals are in place for a number of potential donors who may be more likely to be exposed to infection or present other risks to the recipient.”
The ban on tissue donations from gay men is similarly related to increased prevalence of infection, according to Stefan Poniatowski of the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria.
“The 12-month deferral period is defined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration under a Therapeutic Goods Order that the blood and tissue banks in Australia must comply with,” he said.
Activists have long called for the regulations around blood donation by gay men to be overhauled.
Gay rights advocate and executive director for RainbowYouth Frances Arns called the deferral period “ridiculous”.
“Within two to three months you can tell that you’ve got HIV. It just kind of signals that this is driven by homophobia,” she said.
“Remove the reference to gender and sexuality. If you’ve have unprotected sex in the last three months and you’re not sure what your status is, then you shouldn’t really donate.”