Postponements

FAQs

What is the policy regarding blood donation for men who have sex with men?

Men who have sex with men are not eligible to donate blood for 12 months since their last sexual contact with a man. Earlier this year we made a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to reduce the postponement for donating whole blood for men who have sex with men from the current 12 months to three months since the last sexual contact. The TGA has approved our submission and it will now be put to state and federal governments to consider. If governments approve, we will aim to implement the change before the end of the year. 

Is Lifeblood being discriminatory in not allowing gay men to donate?

No, our policy considers an assessment of risk, and does not discriminate against anyone. Postponements are in place for any number of potential donors who may be more likely to be exposed to infection or present other risks to patients.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has visited this issue, and agrees that we are not being discriminatory with our deferral policy for men who have sex with men.

I’m in an exclusive relationship, why can’t I donate blood?

We understand that there are different levels of risk among men who have sex with men. The latest information from the Kirby Institute (University of NSW) states that HIV continues to be transmitted primarily through sexual contact between men. Even within declared monogamous relationships, the risk is on average 50 times higher than in heterosexual couples.

Don’t you test blood for HIV?

Yes, we test every donation. However, even this sophisticated testing is unable to detect the early presence of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. We refer to this as a ‘window period’ – it’s a time when the infection is just starting and isn’t yet detectable. This is why we can’t rely on testing alone.

I disagree with you. Can I skip the question about men who have sex with men?

The donor questionnaire is a legal document that people must answer honestly. The rules around who can and can’t donate blood help to ensure that the blood supply in Australia is as safe as possible for patients.

Why can’t you ask more questions about behaviour to identify suitable donors?

Unfortunately, more detailed questions about sexual practices are not practical and will not change the scientific knowledge around the risk associated with men who have sex with men.

It’s been years since anyone was infected with HIV because of a blood donation. Surely it’s time to relax the rules?

Our medical experts are always reviewing the latest scientific and medical evidence. Earlier this year we made a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to reduce the current donation postponement for whole blood donors with a sexual activity-based risk factor from 12 to three months, since the last sexual contact. The TGA has approved our submission and it will now be put to state and federal governments to consider. If governments approve, we will aim to implement the change before the end of the year. 

How do you come to these decisions?

Our blood donation rules are based on research and international policy. Following a comprehensive review of our sexual activity postponement policies, we made a submission to the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), earlier this year, to reduce the donation postponement for donating whole blood for donors with a sexual-activity-based risk factor from the current 12 months to three months since the last sexual contact.

The TGA has approved our submission and it will now be put to state and federal governments to consider. If governments approve, we will aim to implement the change before the end of the year. 

What do they do in the rest of the world?

When we compare our policies with other blood services internationally, the Australian 12-month postponement policy is the same as, or shorter than the postponements in most other blood services around the world. For example, the postponement in Austria, Greece and Singapore is indefinite, whereas in New Zealand, Norway and Sweden it is 12 months. However, recently several countries have moved to shorter postponement periods, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, which are now 3 months. 

Shouldn’t I have the right to donate?

Everyone has the right to receive safe blood, and our greatest concern is ensuring the safety of the blood supply. While we wish everyone could donate, we defer people for many reasons, including ensuring their own health.

Where can I find out more about the current review?

Read more about the current review

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