A new campaign has been launched to increase Australia’s safe blood supply by ending the current ban on blood donation by gay and bi+ men, trans women and non-binary people who have sex with men .
Currently in Australia, these groups are required to abstain from sex for three months before donating, although the vast majority do not have HIV.
The let’s give The campaign is launched today to coincide with World Blood Donor Day. The Let Us Give campaign is sponsored by LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia.
The campaign says an additional 25,000 liters of blood would be available to save lives if the Red Cross Lifeblood service abandoned the current abstinence period and assessed each donor on their individual sexual risk.
“According to Lifeblood, Australia’s blood supply is dangerously low,” said Let Us Give spokesperson Thomas Buxereau.
“The new campaign aims to increase the supply of safe blood by embracing individual risk assessment and removing outdated bans based on the sex of your sexual partner.”
“Our goal is simple, to help those in need by donating blood.”
“We launched a petitionand encourage our supporters to write to Lifeblood and the new Federal Minister of HealthMark Butler.
Dr Sharon Dane, author of a recent review of the latest research on the issue and what policies apply abroad, points out that many Western countries have already moved to individual risk assessment.
“That’s because recent research shows that such measures can enable greater availability of blood, while preserving the safety of the blood supply.”
“Applying current Australian blood donation rates to a conservatively estimated population of trans men and trans women who have sex with men, we might expect Australia’s blood supply to increases by more than 25,000 liters per year.”
“Given that Lifeblood says an average donation can save up to three lives, a new policy would potentially help save many more lives.”
Lifeblood’s main argument against the change is that new HIV infections in Australia disproportionately affect 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 sex between men and 22% from men in heterosexual sex. Yet Canada has followed the science and embraced individual risk assessment.
“The proportion of new HIV cases 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 are not afraid to ask the same questions to everyone, as is the case with an individual risk assessment,” Dr Dane said.
“The individual risk assessment would only enhance Australia’s reputation for having a safe and sustainable blood supply.”