Blood Donation Campaign

Updated 12th March 2024

Policy - Australia and overseas

Australia was the first nation to remove a lifetime ban on blood donation for gay and bisexual men, and trans women (GBmTw) who have sex with men, in favour of a 12-month abstinence deferral period, which was subsequently reduced to a 3-month deferral. Australia, however, has since fallen behind like-minded countries. The UK, US, and Canada have removed deferral periods based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In these countries, all prospective donors are screened with the same questions, a process referred to as Individual Risk Assessment (IRA).

Individual Risk Assessment (IRA)

Under the IRA model adopted in the UK, Canada and the US, all eligible donors who have not had anal sex with new or multiple sexual partners, within three months prior to attempting to donate, may do so. This means a person can still donate having had anal sex or having had new or several sexual partners (of any gender), just not when these two factors are combined.

Lifeblood’s Plasma Pathway

Lifeblood Australia has recently proposed a Plasma Pathway, which would allow GBmTw (who have sex with men), to donate plasma even if on PrEP, a medication to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

This is currently not the case because if someone is already infected with HIV, PrEP can supress the virus to the point where it may go undetected when screening blood for HIV infection. However, plasma involves a different treatment process, relative to whole blood, rendering it safe to donate while a person is on PrEP and/or engaging in risky sexual activity.

Lifeblood made a submission to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to remove sexual activity rules for plasma donation, including the need to not be on PrEP. Lifeblood’s submission has now been approved by the TGA but is yet to become policy, which involves further consultation with CSL Behring (a manufacturer of plasma products) and the National Blood Authority.

While the Plasma Pathway is a positive move and a step further than other countries when it comes to plasma donation, should it be enacted, it still doesn’t address the issue of equity for whole blood donation.

Campaign for Individual Risk Assessment in Australia

With continued pressure from advocacy groups, particularly Just.Equal Australia’s “Let Us Give” campaign, Lifeblood has proposed the introduction of Individual Risk Assessment for whole blood donation, in keeping with countries like the UK, US and Canada. However, no time frame has been given, in terms of a submission being made to the TGA. Further, the type of screening questions to be included in Australia’s Individual Risk Assessment model, is still not clear.

Just.Equal Australia, through it’s “Let Us Give” campaign, will continue to monitor this situation, to ensure Australia’s whole blood donation policies are at least as equitable as the more progressive policies introduced in other countries, and that it happens sooner rather than later.


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