Let Us Give was responding to a proposal from the Red Cross Lifeblood Service to allow men who have sex with men to give blood plasma (see attached news report from today's edition of the NW Tasmanian Advocate).
Let Us Give spokesperson, Thomas Buxereau, said,
"Lifting the current ban on plasma donation by gay and bisexual men, and trans women and some non binary people who have sex with men, will not solve the problem of Australia's dangerously low supplies of whole blood."
"If Australia adopts a new policy whereby all donors of whole blood are assessed for their individual risk regardless of the gender of their sexual partner, there will be an extra 25,000 litres of whole blood available to save the lives of Australians in need" (see attached graphic).
"That is why an increasing number of countries, including Canada, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Israel, have dropped the current gender-related ban and adopted individual risk assessment instead."
Researcher for Let Us Give, Dr Sharon Dane, called on Lifeblood to explain how its proposal for plasma collection will be any different to overseas gay plasma donation policies that were abandoned.
"Countries like Israel, Canada and France trialled plasma donation for gay men, but then quicky abandonded that approach in favour of whole blood donation."
"In the Israeli, Canadian and French trials, plasma from gay donors was quarantined and frozen for three to four months so the donor could return and be tested for HIV. For a variety of reasons, many donors could not return in that timeframe and their plasma had to be dumped."
"We call on Lifeblood to explain how plasma collection in Australia will be any less wasteful than in other countries."
HIV activist and co-founder of the Institute of Many, Nic Holas, is reported as saying that allowing men who have sex with men to donate whole blood "is a little bit premature at the moment". His reason is that "we're seeing a lot less Australian-born gay and bisexual men getting HIV now but it's going up in international students and it's going up in the heterosexual community and it's going up in Indigenous communities".
Dr Dane responded,
"Nic Holas is right about the relative infection rates of different demographic groups in Australia but his conclusion about keeping the current blood donor restrictions is wrong."
"Decreasing HIV infections among gay men and increasing infections among other demographic groups including heterosexuals, means that, to keep the blood supply as safe as possible, Australia should individually assess the risk of all donors regardless of the gender of their sexual partner."