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Bondi View

Donation appeal ignites gay blood debate

While the Red Cross needs 27,000 blood donations every week across Australia to help save lives, gay men continue to be eliminated from the blood gathering process.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are not allowed to donate at the risk of passing on blood-borne diseases, unless they declare celibacy for 12
months. Gay interest groups are infuriated at the Red Cross, arguing there is discrimination regarding blood donations.

Gay rights advocate, Rodney Croome said the Red Cross has misplaced its focus. He said: “The Red Cross is being obstinate in continuing to refuse blood donations from gay men. International experience shifts
the focus away from gender. The best blood donation policy screens potential donors for the safety of their blood rather than their gender.

“Focus on sexual safety means level of disease in the blood supply decreases and amount of safe blood supply increases.

“In Australian context, the policy should screen all donors to determine how safe sexual activity is.

“We know know that HIV is spread by unsafe sex and not gay sex; therefore there needs to be a shift in focus when discussing blood donation,” Mr Croome said.

National Media Manager of the Red Cross, Kathy Bowlen said their testing is not infallible and therefore MSM is a risk group.

“Sexually active gay men make the vast majority, about 90 per cent of people who contract HIV,” Ms Bowlen said. “The problem is there is a window period in which someone has contracted the disease and this is not able to be picked up in testing.

“Gay women are able to donate which shows that the Red Cross is not discriminatory.

“The entire focus with regard to blood donations and responsibility revolves around ruling out the risk,” she said.

Yet all gay men who practice safe sex and are in monogamous relationships are still not able to donate.

“It is stereotyping to say that all gay men are sexually promiscuous and provide a threat to the blood,” Mr Croome said. “It is not just wrong because of discrimination, but because Aussies who are in urgent need of blood are missing out on the clean blood gay men can supply
because of this.”

NSW Emergency Services will compete in a challenge to see who can donate the most blood to the Red Cross. Designed to raise blood during
the cooler winter months, the challenge was launched at Town Hall Donor Center, George St and will run from July 1 until August 31.

Sergeant Michael Smith of Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit was amongst those who donated on behalf on NSW Police Force. He proudly spoke of the importance of blood donations and the difference they can

“Every member of an emergency service knows the importance of blood donations because we see people who need blood every day.”