International, National

UK authorities to lift restrictions on gay blood donation

Australian LGBTIQ rights organisation just.equal has welcomed the UK’s decision to lift its restrictions on gay blood donors, calling on local authorities to do the same.

The UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs has recommended that all donors be assessed for their individual risk rather than excluded if they are gay and sexually active.

“The new UK policy will mean that country’s blood supply is safer, more plentiful and less discriminatory,” said just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome.

“We call on Australian blood collection authorities to move to a new policy of individual screening.”

Under the new UK policy, to be adopted in mid-2021, all donors in a relationship for three months can donate.

If donors have had more than one sexual partner or a new partner in the last three months, they can donate as long as they have not had anal sex.  

“The caveat for anal sex is regrettable because the focus of blood screening policies should be… not what kind of sex it is,” said Croome.

While anal sex is more likely than other sex to transmit HIV, condoms and PrEP prevent the virus from being acquired.

People with HIV who have an undetectable viral load ­– the vast majority in Australia – also cannot pass on the virus.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Australia would move from a 12-month celibacy period to a three-month period for potential blood donors who are sexually active gay and bisexual men or transgender women who have sex with men.

The proposed policy has yet to be implemented, meaning Australia is now two steps behind the UK, said Croome.

Advocates have raised concerns that the debate over gay blood donation is problematic for people living with HIV, who face stigma and discrimination.

HIV information, testing, treatment, and support are available through medical centres, LGBTIQ health organisations, and state and territory HIV organisations.

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