There was frustration on social media, Wednesday, after the ABC reported the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is allowing people who have had COVID-19 to donate blood a week after recovering.

Queer men expressed their annoyance and anger on Twitter as the Red Cross has not eased the restrictions on blood donations in Australia for men who have same-sex sexual relations.

One person tweeted, “Maybe if the Red Cross weren’t discriminatory against Gay, Trans and Non-Binary people, there would be more people who could donate?”

Another person tweeted, “I was born with a toxic blood condition and cannot donate. My blood type is LGBTIQA-positive….”

Just.Equal advocate Rodney Croome tweeted, “Did you know Australia urgently needs 3,200 new blood donors, there are many gay and bisexual men and trans women who can’t give blood now but are safe and willing to donate, and in ever more countries we can give blood?”

‘Only Half the People Making Appointments End up Giving Blood’

According to the ABC, “only half the people making appointments end up giving blood,” and “4,500 blood donation appointments are missed every day due to the Omicron wave.”

People are cancelling or not showing up, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

In light of this, the Red Cross has reduced the time COVID recoverees have to wait to donate blood as of Sunday, January 23.

The initial waiting period was 28 days, and the prospective donor had to be completely recovered from the illness.

Now a COVID recoveree only has to wait seven days and be completely well before they can donate blood.

The Director of Donor and Blood Safety at the Red Cross, Iain Gosbell, told the ABC it was a “safe decision.” He also said there have been “zero instances of transmission” through “blood transfusion.”

“When we had the original 28-day deferral that was when there wasn’t as much scientific knowledge about the virus as what there is now,” Professor Gosbell said.

‘We Understand People May be Frustrated’

In August last year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reduced the blood donor deferral period for men who have same-sex sexual relations from 12 to three months.

A spokesperson from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation said the TGA’s decision to reduce the waiting time was “welcome” and an “overdue reform.”

In a statement, they wrote, “there are strong community calls for more people to be able to donate”. They added, “we will keep working with Lifeblood and the TGA to ensure Australia is not needlessly excluding people from blood donation.”

A Red Cross spokesperson told Star Observer in a statement that it has “reduced the postponement for COVID to bring it into line with our deferrals for other respiratory illnesses” and said the seven-day postponement “aligns with public health guidelines.”

“We understand people may be frustrated by some of our blood donation rules, but these rules are in place so that Australia maintains one of the safest blood supplies in the world.”

The Red Cross also said its “other postponements,” including the “sexual activity deferral period,” are unchanged but are “under review.”

“We are committed to making it easier for more people to donate blood and Lifeblood is investigating other options that will allow more people to donate blood.”

Earlier this month, Greece lifted its decades-long ban on queer men donating blood which will take effect soon.

According to the Australian Government Department of Health, “A small number of countries use an individual risk approach… The TGA understands Lifeblood currently considers that individual risk assessment approach is not the safest approach at this time in Australia.  This is due to an uneven distribution of new HIV infections across the Australian population.”

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