Monday June 13th 2022
EMBARGOED UNTIL 4pm, Monday June 13th
NEW CAMPAIGN AIMS TO INCREASE BLOOD SUPPLY BY ENDING GAY BLOOD BAN
To coincide with World Blood Donor Day (Tuesday, June 14) a new campaign has been launched to increase the supply of safe blood in Australia by ending the current ban on blood donation by gay men, and bisexual men, trans women and non-binary people who have sex with men.
Currently in Australia these groups are required to be sexually abstinent for three months before donating, even though the vast majority do not have HIV.
The campaign, called Let Us Give, says an extra 25,000 litres of blood would be available to save lives if the Red Cross Lifeblood Service abandons the current abstinance period and assessed each donor for their individual sexual risk (commonly called "individual risk assessment"). See attached graphic.
Campaign spokesperson, Thomas Buxereau, said,
"According to Lifeblood, Australia's blood supply is dangerously low."
"The new campaign is about increasing the supply of safe blood by adopting individual risk assessment and removing the antiquated bans based on the gender of your sexual partner."
"Our goal is simple, to help those in need by giving blood."
Author of a recent review of the latest research on the issue and what policies apply overseas, Dr Sharon Dane, said,
"More and more Western countries, including Canada, Britain, France and the Netherlands, have moved away from the unrealistic abstinence requirements and towards individual risk assessment."
"This is because the recent research shows that such measures can allow for more available blood, while keeping the blood supply safe."
"By applying current Australian blood donation rates to a conservatively estimated population of men and trans women who have sex with men, we could expect Australia's blood supply to increase by over 25,000 litres per year."
"Given Lifeblood says an average donation can save up to three lives, a new policy would potentially contribute to many more lives being saved."
Lifeblood's chief argument against change is that new HIV infections in Australia are disportionately among men who have sex with men, but according to Dr Dane this is also the case in Canada
"Recent data shows that 61% of new male HIV infections in Canada were from male-to-male sex and 22% from men engaging in heterosexual sex, yet Canada has followed the science and adopted individual risk assessment".
"The proportion of new HIV cases that are attributed to men and transgender women who have sex with men no longer matters if you are prepared to treat all potential donors equally and if you don't fear asking everyone the same questions, as is the case with individual risk assessment", Dr Dane said.
"Individual risk assessment would only strengthen Australia's reputation for having a safe and sustainable blood supply."