Paul Galea has never been afraid of needles. But rules restricting people who have recently been inked from donating blood has always served as a hindrance.
Now, the Launceston tattoo artist is among many expected to help boost plasma supplies, with Australian Red Cross Lifeblood announcing changes to its donation requirements.
The organisation has scrapped a rule requiring people who have received a tattoo wait four months before donating plasma. It comes on the back of a study involving more than 25,000 tattooed donors conducted by Lifeblood in partnership with UNSW's Kirby Institute.
While all donated plasma in Australia is tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C, Lifeblood spokeswoman Ann Harvey said it takes time for a recent infection, that may be contracted from a contaminated needle, to become detectable.
"While there is a link between needle procedures such as tattoos and blood born viruses, this new research demonstrates that those who received tattoos in Australian licensed or regulated premises are safe to donate," she said.
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Australia is one of the first countries in the world to remove the waiting period, with the changes expected to boost plasma stocks by an estimated 50,000 donations a year, impacting nearly 140 Launceston blood donors.
Mr Galea said until now, donating plasma had always seemed impossible.
"I think it definitely puts people off donating," he said.
"I have a client who has been donating for years, but it's always been a lot of scheduling around when he can donate and when I can tattoo him again.
"I don't think I have ever gone more than four months without being tattooed, so I think these changes will definitely make a big difference."
Ms Harvey said a fear of needles was one of the biggest barriers for new donors.
"Around 15 per cent of Australians think having a tattoo means you can't donate blood at all, so we're hopeful this change will help us collect the more than 15,000 plasma donations needed by Aussie patients each week."
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