The Andrews Labor Government will today call on the Federal Government and states and territories to review the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.
Under the current restrictions for eligible blood donors, men who have had sex with men in the preceding 12 months are banned from donating blood.
A review of this policy is due to be held in 2018, but the Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, will today formally request through the Council of Australian Governments Health Council that the review be brought forward to next year with the aim of reducing or removing this discriminatory policy.
An independent review was last conducted for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in 2012. However, despite the review finding sufficient evidence to support the reduction of the deferral period without reducing safety, this was not accepted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The Government believes this is a discriminatory policy – born out of the AIDS epidemic and subsequent panic of the 1980s – that no longer reflects current evidence or best practice on risk, nor community views.
In 2000, Australia was the first country in the world to reduce restrictions on blood donations for men who have sex with men from five years to 12 months.
Bringing the review forward presents another opportunity for Australia to lead the way once again and amend this discriminatory policy.
Currently, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Chile, Argentina and South Korea have no deferral periods.
Reviewing the science will ensure best practice policy is aligned with contemporary evidence on risk, given that all donations are screened and tested for a number of infectious blood borne diseases.
We know that the need for life saving blood donations never stops. Removing or reducing this ban will help more people save more lives.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy
“This policy doesn’t align with what we now know about how HIV is transmitted – it’s discriminatory and it’s outdated.”
“This ban stops a particular group of people from doing something that could save lives – strangers or people they love alike.”
Quote attributable to Minister for Equality Martin Foley
“This ban is undeniably stigmatising. We need to ensure our health standards exist in the same 21st century world that we do.”