A barrier for homosexual men wishing to donate blood will be reduced at the end of the month, but advocates are calling for all restrictions to be abolished in line with modern health screening practices.
Homosexual men wishing to donate blood will now only have to be celibate for three months, instead of the usual 12, under a restriction change announced by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The changes were announced on Wednesday, when Red Cross Australia's blood service Lifeblood updated its guidelines online.
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Launceston man Simon Rice said while it was a good first step towards allowing more gay men to donate blood, it still wasn't far enough and would exclude people like himself in long-term relationships.
His comments were echoed by Tasmanian LGBTQI advocate and spokesman for just.equal Rodney Croome, who called on the federal regulator to completely remove the restriction.
"The three-month celibacy period for men who have sex with men continues to stigmatise us as a threat to public health and is has no place in a nation that allows gay male couples to marry," he said.
"It will not significantly increase the supply of safe blood because the number of gay men who last had sex less than 12 months ago but more than three months ago is negligible."
Mr Croome said the celibacy period should be abolished and replaced with screening for individual risk.
"Research and reform overseas shows that shifting to a policy that screens potential donors for their individual risk regardless of the gender of their sexual partner removes discrimination and increases the amount of safe blood available," he said.
Mr Rice said donating blood was important to him, because it was literally a life-saving donation.
"I have something that people need, and I have it in abundance, but I can't donate," he said.
He is also no stranger to blood donation, having previously donated for a couple of years - before he was in a same-sex relationship.
"This is a really positive step, but there are a lot of gay men out there like me who would love to donate," he said.
"It would boost the stocks a lot."
The celibacy restriction period also applies to transgender people who have had sex with a homosexual or bisexual man.
A number of countries have replaced their gay blood bans with individual risk assessment including Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Poland and Hungary.
The UK and US are committed to doing the same in 2021.
Mr Croome said it was time to move past gay bans and focus on individual risk.
A spokesman for Red Cross blood donation centre Lifeblood said they were pleased the ATGA had approved their proposal.
Lifeblood made the proposal to the regulatory authority, but the spokesperson said they stood by their deferral policies.
"Lifeblood's deferral policies (where donors are postponed from donating for a period) are regularly reviewed and are underpinned by the most up-to-date clinical and scientific evidence, so that Australia maintains one of the safest blood supplies in the world," they said.
"Lifeblood is pleased that the TGA approved our submission, and that all Australian governments also agreed to our proposal."