By Jordan Hirst More gay men may be able to donate blood under a new proposal being considered by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, but gay activists say the change would make no difference.
An independent review commissioned by the service has recommended the period sexually active gay men must wait between their last sexual activity and giving blood be halved from a year to 6 months, providing further research demonstrates the change would not threaten the safety of the blood supply.
“The Review Committee has kept the safety of the blood supply at the centre of its deliberations,” said Dr Tony Keller, national safety specialist at the Blood Service.
Michael Cain, whose Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission case against the 12-month waiting period sparked the review, argued the change would make no difference as homosexual donors who practice safe sex will still be ineligible to donate.
"Like most gay men I will still not be able to donate under the proposed policy, even though I have a far, far lower risk of catching HIV than many heterosexual people who can currently donate,'' Cain said.
He said the only way to remove discrimination from blood donation and increase the pool of safe blood from donors is to adopt a policy which screens all donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than the gender of their partner.
"I feel really frustrated that the focus continues to be on my partner's gender, rather than how safe we are,'' he said.
Japan and South Africa currently have a six month deferral period for gay blood donors. The UK and Hungary have a one year deferral period, and sexually active gay men are banned for life from donating in the United States, Canada and much of Europe.
Only 3% of the Australian population currently donate blood, and the Red Cross faced a nationwide blood shortage late last year. The Blood Service is expected to make a decision on the proposal in the next 12 months.
By Jordan Hirst
More gay men may be able to donate blood under a new proposal being considered by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, but gay activists say the change would make no difference.