The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved a proposal from Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (Lifeblood) to decrease the deferral period from 12 months to three months for sexual activity-based deferrals for whole blood donors.
The regulation is subject to the approval of the Commonwealth, States and Territories including the NSW government which has supported the change.
This means that groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and transgender people who have had sex with a male will be able to donate whole blood earlier from their last sexual contact. However, the current 12-month restriction will continue to apply to apheresis plasma donations and people taking PrEP as they were outside the scope of Lifeblood’s submission.
Queer advocates have tentatively welcomed the move. Concerns still remain, however, that the three-month deferral is not enough especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have said that the deferral period should be scrapped altogether in favour of an individualised risk assessment.
Some countries including Italy, South Africa, Portugal and Spain do not have blanket deferral periods for MSM and instead use individual risk factors such as multiple partners. While France has a blanket 4-month MSM ban, an individual assessment is used for quarantined apheresis plasma donations.
All plasma donors in France who have had only one sexual partner in the past four months have their donation quarantined for at least two months until a new donation. This presumably allows monogamous couples in France to donate plasma.
Furthermore, the Brazilian Supreme Court recently overturned the country’s 12-month MSM deferral ruling it unconstitutional. For now, Australia’s 12-month MSM deferral remains in place.