A new Australian study shows that most gay and bisexual men would donate blood if donation regulations allowed them to.
The study, published in the journal Transfusion, found more than three quarters of the men surveyed would give blood.
Almost as many said they found the current restrictions homophobic, and over 80% said they are unfair.
Younger gay and bisexual men were more likely to say they would donate blood.
“It’s been abundantly clear for some time that Australia’s blood donation laws needlessly exclude many gay and bisexual men from donating blood, without basis in science,” said Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration last month approved a change that would see men who have sex with men able to donate blood after three months of celibacy rather than the current requirement of a year.
While some advocates say the new rules, which must be approved by state and territory governments, don’t go far enough, many have welcomed the change as a step in the right direction.
“The TGA’s decision to revise the blood donation deferral period for gay and bisexual men to three months is a sensible improvement that will expand the pool of blood donors when implemented,” said O’Donnell.
“The goal of our policy should be to ensure the safety of the blood supply while encouraging the largest possible pool of donors.
“The previous 12 month deferral period was excessive.”
Rodney Croome, spokesperson for advocacy group just.equal, said that the study confirms allowing sexually active gay and bisexual men would increase the supply of safe blood donations.
“With the blood supply decreasing because of the pandemic, it’s time for Australia to adopt a more rational blood donation policy that screens donors for sexual safety rather than gender of sexual partner,” said Croome.
“I urge supporters of an improved blood donor policy to write to Australia’s health ministers urging a new policy that focuses on safe sex not gay sex.”
Others have welcomed the proposed new regulations, saying a three-month deferral period represents compromise with public health concerns.
“It remains an inconvenient truth that gay and bi men, and trans women, are still at a statistically higher risk of acquiring HIV,” said Nic Holas of HIV organisation The Institute of Many.
A three-month deferral period for blood donation by gay and bisexual men will bring Australia into line with other countries including the United States, Canada, and Denmark.
Brazil this week scrapped its deferral period entirely, allowing people of all sexualities to donate blood under the same criteria with no celibacy requirement.