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News: World

Tue 13 Apr, 2010
By Sam Bristowe

I believe it's unsafe sex, not gay sex, that poses a risk to the blood supply

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Australia to review gay blood ban

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Australia's Red Cross Blood service will review its policy which prevents many homosexual men from donating blood.

Currently, a man who has had homosexual sex within the past 12 months is excluded from being an eligible blood donor.

The long-standing restriction was imposed because of the statistically higher incidence of some blood-borne diseases, such as HIV, among the gay community.

The issue came before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in 2008, which resulted in an official call for a review of the policy.

The effective ban on gay men giving blood has also emerged as an issue for debate in the United States, and a Red Cross spokesperson has confirmed a review would soon get under way in Australia.

"We think its an opportune time to review the policy as it stands," Red Cross Blood Service spokesman Nick McGowan told AAP on Monday.

"We'll look at the policy as it stands ... and we'll cast a wide net to ensure we canvass all views, but also the review will take of any scientific data or medical findings that (may apply) both here and Australia and abroad."

Mr McGowan said the review would get under way within 12 months and there would be "ample opportunity for the public and all stakeholders to have a say".

He cautioned that moving to review the policy did not automatically signal that it would be changed, and the "overwhelming priority for the blood service is the safety of our blood supply".

"I wouldn't encourage anyone to jump to any conclusion whatsoever one way or the other - there is a long way to go before we finish the review," Mr McGowan said.

"I also think the public would expect the blood service ... to keep up with the best medical advice and scientific data available, not just on this policy but on every policy we have."
Tasmanian Michael Cain challenged the restriction before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in 2008.

The tribunal ultimately upheld the ban but it agreed with Mr Cain that some gay men would be low-risk donors and supported a future policy review.

Mr Cain said on Monday he was "very pleased" the review appeared to be imminent, and he called for it to be "thorough and transparent".

"I believe it's unsafe sex, not gay sex, that poses a risk to the blood supply," Mr Cain said in a statement.

"And if all potential blood donors - gay and straight - are screened for the safety of their sexual activity the blood supply will be even safer than it is."

Mr Cain said for several years Spain and Italy have screened all blood donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than the gender of their sexual partner, and the risk of HIV infection through blood transfusion had decreased.

"I'm very pleased the Red Cross is now taking this position seriously enough to conduct a review," he said.

Source: AAP


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