Australia could become latest country to partially relax blood donation laws

The United States partially relaxed their blood donation laws earlier this month.

Australia is set to become the latest country to relax its current blood donation laws in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Gay and bisexual men, alongside other men who have sex with men (MSM), would only have to be celibate for three months instead of the current 12 months.

Each state will consider the motion, which could become law before the end of the year. However, the law will continue to exclude people taking the HIV-prevention medication, PrEP, who will still be required to be celibate for 12 months before donating.

A statement from Lifeblood, Australia’s Red Cross blood donation service, said: “Deferral policies are regularly reviewed and are underpinned by the most up-to-date clinical and scientific evidence, so that Australia maintains one of the safest blood supplies in the world.

“Lifeblood would like to make it easier for all Australians to give blood, while ensuring Australia’s blood and blood products are as safe as possible for recipients.”

However, LGBTQ advocates say that just lowering the deferral period doesn’t go far enough, describing it as just “window-dressing”.

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Speaking to SBS, Rodney Croome, a spokesperson for just.equal, said: “The new three-month celibacy rule will not significantly increase the amount of safe blood available for transfusion because it leaves most gay men who are safe to give blood still unable to donate.

“At a time of crisis when blood shortages are looming, it is vital that all Australians who are not at risk of passing on blood-borne diseases are able to donate, including those gay men who are not at risk.”

Earlier this month, the United States brought down its deferral period for MSM from 12 months to three months.

In response to the news, GLAAD tweeted: “Victory! After weeks of pressure from GLAAD and others [the FDA] is lowering the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months.”

But they added this wasn’t the end, saying: “This victory, however, remains imperfect. We’ll keep pushing for the ban to be lifted entirely.”

Buzzfeed also reports that it’s unclear as to how the updated policy will affect trans people. They say that due to “incoherent” rules from the FDA over trans people, they currently face a blanket ban.

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