Restrictions on gay blood donors prevent us from saving lives | Forbes Lawyer

This month, France and Greece lifted their decades-old ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The UK did the same last year.

The blood ban seems more suited to history books than news headlines, but sadly, this ban is still in effect in many countries around the world, including Australia.

When I tell people about the ban, the news is normally met with disbelief. Disbelief that quickly turns to indignation.

“Is there a ban?” they exclaim. “How can this still be the case in 2022?”

The truth is, I have no idea.

The decision by France and Greece follows in the footsteps of many other countries around the world. In October last year, Israel lifted all blood donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men.

Brazil, Hungary, Germany and many other countries have also lifted or eased restrictions.

But before donating blood in Australia, if you’re a man, you must tell the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service if you’ve had sex with another man in the last three months. If the answer is “yes”, you are banned.

Working in the health sector, I am acutely aware of the critical need for blood donations. I often see campaigns calling for more donors, and every time one walks past me, I can’t help but feel sad.

In Australia, many people say how rewarding it is to donate blood. It gives them a sense of community, a sense that they are playing an active role in society by playing a small part in saving other people’s lives.

My brother donates blood regularly. I cannot, however, because of the discriminatory blood donor regulations against gay and bisexual men in our country.

As a gay man I have the right to marry, to be chief executive of an international organization and to be elected as a Melbourne city councilor to represent my community – but of course in modern Australia, if I give blood, it is also a bridge. far.

The ban makes as much sense as a bully in a schoolyard and leaves my community feeling just as bruised.

“Stay in your lane, Jamal”, I can hear them say. But unfortunately, this is not exactly the peak time in the way of blood donation.

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has been actively appealing for donations in the face of international blood shortages. Blood is needed somewhere in Australia every 24 seconds, but currently only 3.5% of people donate.

The technology to check for blood problems or viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C has also improved dramatically over time.

I don’t know if anyone still needs to hear this in 2022, but it’s not just gay men who can get HIV. Men, women and other heterosexual people are also infected. HIV does not discriminate, but people do.

The conversation about human rights in this country has been in the spotlight due to the pandemic.

We have seen hospitals rapidly change their policies and workflows, and staff have been redeployed as the healthcare industry has evolved to cope with the influx of patients.

It is time for the rules surrounding blood donation to evolve with time and technology.

Blood donation rules should be based on evidence rather than fear. Fact rather than fiction. Current policy stigmatizes gay men, and changing it is a key way to increase access to lifesaving blood products in Australia.

Today, access to blood products is more critical than ever. If you can donate, consider donating blood today.

  • Jamal Hakim is a Melbourne City Councilor and Managing Director of Marie Stopes Australia.
This story Restrictions on gay blood donors prevent us from saving lives first appeared in The Canberra Times.


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