New blood donation rules for gay men
New blood donation rules for gay men have come into effect on Sunday allowing them to give blood if they have been celibate for three months.
The measure has dramatically slashed that waiting period from 12 months - which effectively banned gay men from donating - but advocates say it still discriminates against many who would wish to donate.
Last year the Australian Red Cross's Lifeblood service announced the rules would be changed from January 31, 2021, after a review of its sexual activity deferral policies.
The new rule, which also apply to transgender people who have had sex with a man, applies to oral and anal sex - with or without a condom.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved Lifeblood's plan to cut the waiting period, and to also allow homosexual men to donate plasma and platelets.
Changes are in effect across all Australian states as of Sunday, Lifeblood said in a statement on its website.
"Following the approval of our submissions by the TGA, subsequent agreement by all Australian governments, and an update of Lifeblood systems including the donor questionnaire form, we are pleased to report this change was applied on 31 January 2021 and is now in place for all applicable sexual-activity-based blood donation deferral policies," the statement said.
"At Lifeblood we're continuing our focus to make it easier for all Australians to give blood, while always ensuring Australia's blood and blood products are as safe as possible for blood recipients."
Gay men had previously been banned from donating during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, with those rules lingering for decades.
The new change came following a push for blood donors during the COVID-19 pandemic, with MPs Alex Greenwich and Dr Time Read vocally supporting the move in their respective states of NSW and Victoria.
However, the decision not to scrap the celibacy period altogether has attracted criticism from LGBTI advocacy groups including just.equal.
Their spokesman and long-time blood equality advocate, Rodney Croome, said blood-donors should be screened based on individual factors and not gender or sexual orientation.
Mr Croome said a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found individual measures "are equally effective in protecting the blood supply".
"This landmark study confirms that reducing the celibacy period is tinkering at the edges," he said.
"To remove discrimination and increase the supply of safe blood, Australia must adopt a new approach to blood donation that screens donors for their individual sexual risk rather than the gender of their sexual partner.
"The current governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom are committed to replacing their gay blood bans with individual risk assessment, and it's time for Australia to do the same.
"We call on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service to ditch a policy American experts label 'illogical and unsubstantiated', and adopt a policy based on scientific evidence instead."
The study also showed that among gay men who would donate blood, the prevalence of HIV is lower than in the general population, Mr Croome said.
Originally published as New blood donation rules for gay men