In Australia, gay men are barred from donating blood if they are sexually active. The UK has just removed a similar rule – should we follow their lead?
In Australia, gay men are barred from donating blood if they are sexually active. The UK has just removed a similar rule – should we follow their lead?

'Why ban me from donating blood just because I’m gay?'

Matthew Rismondo wants to donate blood to save lives but has been told he can't unless he abstains from having sex with his long-term partner for 12 months.

If the 26-year-old from Adelaide were living in the UK, he could donate much needed blood without such a restriction.

Mr Rismondo has been in a same-sex relationship with his partner since February.

"I would absolutely want to donate blood - I'm fit and healthy and I just don't understand why I can't," he said.

"Telling my partner I can't have sex with him for a year because I want to donate blood is a barbaric rule, particularly at a time of such need."

Last month, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood urgently appealed for 16,000 additional people to give blood or plasma after stocks of O+ and A+ blood dropped to two days' supply.

The UK's National Health Service this month announced it will next year remove its three-month abstinence rule for gay men to donate blood provided they are in a stable relationship for at least three months, there is no known exposure to a sexually transmitted infection, nor use of anti-HIV drugs PreP or PEP.

In January, Australia's one-year abstinence from sex requirement for high risk groups, such as LGBTIQ people, to donate blood will reduce to three months following improvements in laboratory testing.

SA Rainbow Advocacy Alliance chairman Matthew Morris said that while this was a great step forward for LGBTIQ Australians, Lifeblood and the Therapeutic Goods Administration needed to follow the UK's lead.

 

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood blood donations ready to go to patients across thousands of hospitals.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood blood donations ready to go to patients across thousands of hospitals.

"There are several members of the LGBTIQ+ community who would love to be able to donate blood, but are currently unable to do so," he said.

"This includes people in long-term relationships who practice safe sex."

A spokeswoman for Lifeblood said individual risk assessments were examined as part of the recent sexual activity deferral review, but that the current population-based risk approach to blood screening was considered safer for Australia.

"We understand and acknowledge there are higher and lower risk individuals within these population groups, however currently there isn't enough research and evidence to accurately identify these individuals," she said.

A TGA spokeswoman said deferral policies were based on current scientific evidence and did not contravene Australian anti-discrimination law.

In 2014, the TGA rejected a submission by Lifeblood for a reduction in the sexual activity deferral from 12 to six months.

Originally published as Why ban me from donating blood just because I'm gay?



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