The Victorian Government has called on the federal government to end the discriminatory ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.

Current restrictions prevent gay and bisexual men from donating blood if they have had sex with other men in the previous 12 months.

A review of the policy was set to be held in 2018, however Minister for Health Jill Hennessy has called for it to be brought forward to next year with the aim of reducing or removing the discriminatory policy.

“This policy doesn’t align with what we now know about how HIV is transmitted, it’s discriminatory and outdated,” she said.

“This ban stops a particular group of people from doing something that could save lives – strangers or people they love alike.”

An independent review was conducted for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in 2012. Despite it finding evidence to support the reduction of the deferral period, it was not accepted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

HIV activist Paul Kidd believes the policy should be evidence based and reviewed on a regular basis.

“The blood ban has been an important part of Australia’s response to HIV and has ensured we kept our blood supply clear of HIV, so it’s a complicated balancing process the government and Red Cross need to undertake,” he told the Star Observer.

“The reality in Australia is that gay men are at increased risk of acquiring HIV and the ban has been one way of ensuring it isn’t spread.

“But I totally support a review of the policy and an overturn of the ban as long as it’s evidence based – as gay men we have to be supportive of ensuring the safety of the blood supply but also supporting our right not to be discriminated against.”

Current donations are pooled with other people’s blood and screened for HIV, hepatitis, and a number of other blood-borne diseases.

If one of the pools comes back HIV-positive, that entire pool becomes unusable.

“People with recent piercings or tattoos, people who lived in the UK at particular times – there are a number of groups that are excluded from blood donation, and they’re all based on evidence,” Kidd said.

“There’s a legitimate discussion about whether those processes are correct for the risk involved, and if that’s what this review will do then this is the productive thing to do.”

At the turn of the millennium Australia was the first country in the world to reduce restrictions on blood donations for men who have sex with me from five years to 12 months.

Hennessy will formally request the review through the Council of Australian Governments Health Council later today.

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