Blood donation restrictions: Time for a review?


Activists are calling for a change to restrictions on gay men donating blood, claiming that the twelve month deferral period is homophobic, not scientific.  

The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-Convenor, Lauren Foy, said restrictions imposed by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service are unfair. 

“The community response to HIV over the last 30 years has been pretty significant. Any kind of inconsistencies in policies and procedures where people might identify as LGBTI or in particular men or Transgender men or women, could be seen as discriminatory”.

In Australia, there is currently a 12 month deferral period for gay men who want to donate blood. This restriction has been in place since 2002, when HIV diagnoses had been on the rise and was at its highest in the 1990s.

The Australian Red Cross says that this restriction is a result of extensive research that will continue to be conducted in partnership with the Kirby Institute, a medical research group. 

But activists point out that as long ago as 2012, the Red Cross’s own expert committee said that the deferral period should be cut to six months. This committee’s advice was later overruled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is part of the government’s Department of Health.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said it rejected the expert advice because of the potential to spread infection to a blood recipient. The TGA also determined that a decrease in the restriction time was unlikely to greatly increase blood supply. Australia currently imports blood from other countries to deal with blood shortages.

This issue of blood supply and these restrictions has been debated over many years. During the 2016 Federal Election, the Greens party supported the change from 12 months to six months.  

The Australian Federation of Aids organisation also supports changing the restriction, stating that 12 months is too long for a deferral.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation reports that the window period after infection where a person won’t test positive is three months, ‘about 98% of people will have enough antibodies to test positive’.

The UK recently changed its deferral period from 12 months to three.

Australia is one out of 23 countries with a 12 month deferral period.

Here is a list of different countries’ deferral times.  




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