Will Australia follow UK lead to soften blood donation rules?


Changes to rules around sexual activity-based deferrals for blood donations are back on the agenda in Australia after a drop in waiting times in the UK.

Following a scientific review the UK government announced than men who have sex with men, and anyone who has had sex with a high-risk partner, will have to wait only three months before they can give blood rather than 12 months.

The permanent ban on blood donation by commercial sex workers will also be lifted, to be replaced by a deferral period of three months.

The changes will come into effect in early 2018.

Dr Gail Miflin, Medical and Research Director at NHS Blood and Transplant, welcomed the decision to amend the rules.

“They take into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence and will not affect the safety of the blood supply,” she said.

“This included more information now available about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, more evidence on how well donors comply with our guidelines and also more evidence that supports the reliability of the blood screening tests we use.”

In Australia the rules state that men who have sex with men are not eligible to donate blood for 12 months since their last sexual contact with a man.

In 2014 the TGA rejected recommendations from a committee set up by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to drop sexual activity-based deferrals to six months.

However, the Blood Service says it will again commence a thorough review of its sexual activity-based deferrals, including men who have sex with men (MSM), later this year.

“We will undertake a thorough process involving many different stakeholders, seeking expert advice and considering the most recent infectious disease data available at the time,” the service said in a statement to the limbic.

“Ideally, we would like to make it easier for more Australians to give blood. It is our challenge to do this while fulfilling our obligation to keep blood and blood products as safe as possible for patients.”

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