Sexual activity deferral review

Keeping Australia’s blood supply safe is a priority for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Ensuring donors meet our eligibility criteria is an important part of this.

Current review update - June 2019

Blood Service 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 supplies of blood in the world. 

As standard practice, the Blood Service periodically establishes external committees to inform the development and review of our policies. The safety and wellbeing of blood donors and recipients of blood products is foremost in all of our decision making.

Currently the Blood Service is reviewing the policies on sexual activity deferrals, and established an external committee to provide advice to inform this review. Some current donors, potential donors, and people who are currently deferred based on their sexual activity are part of the engagement. This builds on the advice given by a previous external committee in 2012.

The Blood Service has received the external committee’s report. Our medical experts are considering the advice of the committee along with international and local evidence, which will inform the usual in-depth clinical risk assessment and broader review.

The Blood Service will then consider a number of potential options regarding sexual activity deferrals, ahead of a submission to the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), for its consideration in the first instance. Any future policy decisions will be a matter for governments. Decisions on deferral periods in relation to sexual activities and otherwise involve multiple parties and factors that inform such decisions, including for the regulator, all Commonwealth, State and Territory governments who make policy decisions and fund and indemnify the Blood Service’s activities, and suppliers who process donated blood into other blood products.

The Blood Service 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 blood recipients.

Information on the review

Historical Review - 2012

In 2011/2012, we set up a review of deferral policies relating to sexual activity of blood donors. The aim of this review was to ensure that the deferral policies and the questions donors are asked are scientifically based, relevant to Australia, and in line with international practice.

Early in 2014, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) notified the Blood Service that they did not support our proposal to reduce all sexual activity-based deferrals from 12 to 6 months, resulting in no change to the current criteria.

We expressed disappointment at the time and committed to carrying out a further review in 5 years, or earlier if there was a significant change to the factors that affect these donors (e.g. a decline in the rate of HIV in Australia or improved HIV testing).

Meanwhile discussions have continued at both a global and local level, and in October 2017 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council called on the Blood Service to bring forward our planned 2018 review.

See the 2012 Review page for information on the review including the committee’s final report, our proposal to the TGA, and the TGA’s response.

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