Australian gay blood donation advocates have welcomed an announcement by the French Government that it will lift the ban on gay men giving blood and focus on donors’ risky sexual activity instead.

French Health and Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine announced the move as she gave blood on World Blood Donation Day last week.

“The criterion [for donation] cannot be the nature of sexual relations or sexual orientation. The only criterion is that of risk, and on that point we will ensure that men who have sex with men are able to give blood because that is not, in itself, a risk factor,” she said.

Gay blood donation campaigner Michael Cain said the French Government’s proposed policy reflects the policy he wishes to see adopted in Australia.

“We now know it’s unsafe sex, not gay sex, which puts people at risk from HIV so it’s time for Australian Red Cross to screen donors for the former, not the latter,” he said.

“The overseas experience shows screening potential donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than the gender of their sexual partner reduces levels of disease in the blood supply and increases the supply of safe blood.

“Like many other gay men who are at extremely low risk of HIV and other STIs I want to be able to give the gift of life.”

Earlier this month, the Australian Red Cross released an independent report which recommends reducing the period gay men have to wait to donate blood after having sex from one year to six months.

But Cain said the reduction would not be a step forward.

“Gay men like me, who are at lower risk of HIV than many of the heterosexuals who are currently allowed to donate, will still be barred from donating,” he said.

In 2008, Cain took a case against the blanket ban on gay blood donation to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal but the Tribunal ruled it did not have the authority to overturn the ban.

Touraine said that the French move would be made “in the coming months”.

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