Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 11 April 2018) . . Page.. 1303 ..
A lot has changed, and a lot will continue to change in terms of medical advances since the 12-month deferral period was established. The change is being reflected in the policy response to restrictions on gay blood donors by governments overseas. In November last year the United Kingdom reduced their 12-month deferral period to just three months. France and Israel have now allowed plasma-only donations by gay men with no deferral period at all, if the donor in question has only had one sexual partner in the past four months.
As plasma lasts for up to a year, there is plenty of time to provide adequate safeguards after the donation is made. Donations are quarantined for 2½ months in those countries, at which point the donor is again tested to ensure that they are safe. These policies are currently under review, with the intention of eventually removing all restrictions.
Likewise Canada’s new Liberal government is currently investing $3.5 million into blood donation research, with the intention of eventually eliminating any deferral periods. In Chile, Mexico, Spain and Italy, all donors, regardless of sexuality, can donate blood. They simply fill out a questionnaire which assesses the risk of their recent sexual behaviour.
It is important to note that under the TGA’s current guidelines in Australia, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service is currently forced to exclude thousands of healthy people in low-risk monogamous relationships from donating blood. In contrast, current guidelines allow some heterosexual people to donate blood when they may have had multiple sexual partners.
Despite the medical advances there is no guarantee that the Therapeutic Goods Administration will change from their current position. In 2012 the Australian Red Cross Blood Service review had already recommended that Australia’s deferral period be reduced from a year to six months. Unfortunately, this recommendation was rejected by the TGA.
Thanks to the leadership of Victorian health ministers and our minister for health, Meegan Fitzharris, through the COAG health ministers council, another Australian Red Cross Blood Service review into the guidelines will now be brought forward, led by an expert panel, with a resolution expected by the end of the year.
Today’s motion is important, in order to say, as an Assembly, that we support the recommendations of that expert review being adopted, and that reducing and removing restrictions should be considered, just as other countries have done. It will send a strong message from the ACT that, in light of medical advances, the policy change we have seen overseas does need to be considered here.
This motion also calls on the TGA to consider how individual risk-based approaches could be used to improve donor screening processes. Gay men in long-term, monogamous relationships are at lower risk of HIV transmission compared to single men with multiple sexual partners; so consideration should be given to treating those people differently, as has been done in France and Israel. At the moment there is a