After the Therapeutic Goods Administrations’ (TGA) announced its approval for reducing the blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men to three months, Australian state leaders are now also calling for changes to be made.
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).
However, NSW and Victorian state leaders are now calling for their respective states to accelerate these approvals.
Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, today sent a request to the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard, asking him to contact other jurisdictions immediately and promptly review guidelines regarding blood donation.
“I write to request that the NSW Government consider, adopt and advocate for a reduction in the current deferral period for blood donations from 12 to three months in line with recommendations from Therapeutic Goods Administration for various groups, including for men who have sex with men,” Greenwich wrote.
“Current guidelines prohibiting cohorts including men who have had sex with other men in the past twelve months from donating blood is not supported by data and is discriminatory, reinforcing unfair myths, stereotypes and assumptions.
“I share community support for a non-discriminatory blood donation policy based on evidence.
Greenwich also noted the necessity for blood donations in the current COVID-19 climate and used other nations’ regulators as evidence for a need to change current blood donation policy.
“Accumulating scientific evidence demonstrates that three months after contact with a blood-borne infection is an adequate period for detection purposes, leading a number of international regulators to reduce deferral periods for donors from high-risk sexual practices including the UK, Canada and the USA,” he wrote.
“During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that blood donations are available to save lives.”
Down in Victoria, the state’s Greens Party today also called on its government to implement reduced deferral periods for gay and bisexual men who wish to donate blood.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for health, Dr Tim Read, said that while the three-month ban was still unnecessary for potential donors, it was a start in the right direction.
Dr Read also asked Red Cross Lifeblood to start working towards testing for HIV and hepatitis with screening donors based on individual sexual risk, rather than the gender of their partner.
“For too long gay and bisexual men have been prevented from donating blood,” Dr Read said in a media release.
“Transfusion transmissible infections are not unique to gay men and tests are now extremely sensitive. Screening potential donors for their individual sexual risk rather than the gender of their partner should allow this deferral period to be further reduced or eliminated.
“Three months is still too long, but we urge our governments to implement it as a start.”