In Australia blood donations are managed by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of the blood supply for transfusions and other medical treatments.
To minimise the risk of transmitting HIV and other blood-borne viruses via the blood supply, the Blood Service has policies restricting donations from people who are considered to be in high-risk groups. These are called donation deferral policies.
The Blood Service uses a questionnaire to screen people seeking to donate blood. To screen for blood-borne virus transmission risk, potential donors must answer yes or no to questions about male to male sexual activity, along with questions about other activities such as tattooing and body piercing. Potential donors must sign a declaration that they have answered the questions honestly and to the best of their knowledge.
Anyone who has engaged in male to male sex in the previous 12 months is currently deferred from blood donation for a period of 12 months following their last male to male sex. The rationale is that gay men and other men who have sex with men are a population with relatively high HIV-prevalence, making up the majority of people diagnosed with HIV in Australia.
Deferrals in relation to sexual activities cover people who have engaged in the last 12 months in sex work and people who have had a sexual partner who has ever injected themselves with drugs not prescribed by a doctor or dentist. Such people are also deferred from blood donation for 12 months. (A person who has ever injected drugs is precluded for life from donating blood).
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service deferral policies affecting men who have sex were reviewed in 2013, with the service recommending to the Therapeutic Good Authority (TGA) a reduction of the deferral period from 12 to 6 months.
Disappointingly, the TGA rejected this recommendation. AFAO will continue to pursue a reduction.
This page was published on 13 January, 2011
This page was reviewed on 24 February 2014
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