LGBTQI advocacy group, just.equal, has written to all Australian federal, state and territory health ministers asking them to support a complete removal of the celibacy requirement for LGBTQI men who want to give blood.
Despite the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announcing its approval to reduce the blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men to three months, LGBTQI health advocates believe that a complete removal is the only reasonable step forward.
Until now men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months cannot give blood due to risk of potential HIV transmission, which advocates claim to be discriminatory, scientifically inaccurate and counterproductive for the current health climate.
The TGA’s decision now needs to be approved by Commonwealth, state and territory governments and implemented by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (formerly knowns as the Blood Service).
While state leaders including Alex Greenwich and Dr Tim Read have endorsed the three-month deferral proposal, other LGBTQI advocates claim that this proposed reduction is still rooted in harmful and inaccurate stereotypes.
In new letters addressed to the nation’s health ministers, the spokesperson for just.equal, Rodney Croome, requested that officials question the TGA’s decision for lowering the celibacy period to three months.
“The three-month deferral is a step forward in the same way standing on a chair brings you closer to the moon,” Croome wrote.
“We support a blood screening policy that assesses potential donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than the gender of their sexual partner.
“Such a policy would make the blood supply safer, increase the supply of blood available to those in need, and consign to history a blood donor policy that stigmatises gay and transgender people as a threat to public health.
“We have written to all health ministers, and to our allies in federal, state and territory parliaments, asking them to support a less discriminatory donor policy and subject the TGA’s proposal to the proper scrutiny it requires.”
Croome noted the need for changes in blood donation policy regarding transgender and gender-queer Australians.
Croome also asked health ministers to seriously consider the fact that an extra 22,400 litres of blood could be available per year in Australia if an individual’s sexuality was removed from the screening process altogether.
“The three-month celibacy period doesn’t remove the stigma faced by gay and transgender people who seek to donate blood and is unlikely to increase the blood supply, so we want to know the science behind it,” he said.
“We urge you to support the removal of the current deferral periods for sexually-active gay and bisexual men, and for transgender men and women.
“This includes removing the continuing twelve-month deferral for gay men on PrEP.
“We also urge you to support allowing gender non-binary Australians to be able donate without misgendering themselves.
“At a time when community health is our top priority, we hope you will seriously consider our suggestions for making the blood supply safer, more plentiful and less discriminatory.”