A RENEWED push this week to review the 12-month blanket deferral of blood donations from sexually-active men who have sex with men has come two years after Australia’s peak regulatory agency for medical drugs and devices rejected moves to have that waiting period reduced to six months.

On Tuesday, the Australian Greens wrote to Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson urging him call for a review of the current deferral period imposed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

[showads ad=MREC]South Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms — who is also the party’s co-spokesperson on LGBTI issues — told the Star Observer that they reached out to Wilson because the Human Rights Commission had the power to “make a ruling on whether or not it is discriminatory”.

In December 2013, the TGA blocked a recommendation from an expert review panel commissioned by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to reduce the waiting period for blood donations from sexually-active men who have sex with men to six months. At the time, the TGA argued the change would mean an increased risk of infection being passed on through the blood supply but no significant boost to blood donor numbers.

The current 12-month deferral period was created during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and is based on classifying all oral or anal sex between men, protected or unprotected, as “at risk sexual activity” on the basis of a “prevalence of infection” in that demographic.

“There have been a lot of changes in the past few years,” Simms told the Star Observer.

“A lot of the assumptions on what [the deferral period] is based on is really discriminatory and it’s really time for us to change.

“If you’re a gay man who engages in safe sex then why shouldn’t you be able to donate blood? The whole question should be around whether or not you engage in risky sexual behaviour, irrespective of sexuality or gender.”

A spokesperson from the Human Rights Commission has confirmed that Wilson “intends to write to the TGA about this matter”.

Wilson himself also highlighted concerns about the TGA’s 2013 decision.

“The decision of the TGA to reject this recommendation raises serious questions about whether safeguards reflect current scientific evidence on testing for HIV,” he said.

The Star Observer has contacted the TGA for comment.

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