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Blood donation policy marginalises minorities

17 Jun 2020

Dur­ing Nation­al Blood Donor Week, CRANAplus and the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurs­ing are call­ing for Aus­tralia to catch up with oth­er OECD coun­tries who have made it pos­si­ble for queer, gay and bisex­u­al men to donate blood more than once a year.

Under cur­rent blood sup­ply pro­tec­tions, there is a 12-month dona­tion defer­ral peri­od for men who have had sex­u­al con­tact with oth­er men (MSM).

New and improved test­ing means blood borne dis­eases can be detect­ed ear­li­er and more eas­i­ly,” Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurs­ing (ACN) CEO, Adjunct Pro­fes­sor Kylie Ward FACN explained. Main­tain­ing a 12-month defer­ral peri­od for MSM indi­vid­u­als exceeds what is required to main­tain blood safe­ty and has the side-effect of per­pet­u­at­ing stig­mas and stereo­types regard­ing queer, gay and bisex­u­al men. 

Blood and plas­ma dona­tions are an essen­tial health ser­vice that can help save lives and improve people’s health. 

A reg­u­lar sup­ply of blood through blood dona­tion is need­ed because blood has a lim­it­ed time for use and there is there­fore a need to ensure blood is always avail­able and on hand. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is a short­age of blood dona­tions in Aus­tralia. Accord­ing to the Aus­tralian Red Cross Blood Ser­vice, only one in 30 Aus­tralians donate blood, but one in three Aus­tralians will require blood in their lifetime.

Short­ages have wors­ened dur­ing the COVID-19 cri­sis, with reports that as many as 900 donor appoint­ments are being can­celled each day,” CRANAplus Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer, Kather­ine Isbis­ter said. By sim­ply com­ing into step with inter­na­tion­al pol­i­cy, Aus­tralia will be able to increase the donor pool while con­tin­u­ing to ensure our blood sup­ply is one of the safest in the world.”

CRANAplus and ACN are rec­om­mend­ing the defer­ral peri­od for all MSM wish­ing to donate blood be reduced to a peri­od of four to six months. 

Thank you to every Aus­tralian who donates blood,” Adjunct Pro­fes­sor Ward said. The 500,000 Aus­tralians who make 1.5 mil­lion dona­tions every year are life­savers. What we would like to achieve by mod­ernising the approach to blood dona­tion restric­tions is that every per­son who wants to donate blood and can safe­ly do so, does not face unnec­es­sary hur­dles that could pre­vent them from donat­ing as fre­quent­ly as pos­si­ble or even donat­ing at all.”