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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 11 April 2018) . . Page.. 1311 ..


MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (5.33): Discrimination against our LGBTIQ community is something Canberrans resoundingly rejected last year during the postal plebiscite on marriage equality. Rightly so, our community stood against the view that same sex relationships are different or inferior. However, today I speak on yet more discrimination that affects our LGBTIQ community, specifically gay men. Currently men who have had sex with other men in the preceding 12 months are unable to donate blood in Australia. This blanket ban is unnecessary given scientific breakthroughs and community awareness of safe sex practices. I join my colleague Chris Steel in calling for a re-evaluation of the current policy.

Giving blood is a lifesaving sacrifice; a small act that can affect so many lives and help so many people. What does it say about us as a community when we are so desperate for blood donations yet we reject on spurious grounds those who are willing and able to donate? Is it really too hard to minimise the supposed risk of letting queer men donate? Other countries have sorted it out, yet we are told that queer men are a risk to us, that their blood is worth less than ours.

There is currently a shortage of blood reserves in Australia. Increasingly the National Blood Authority is importing supplies from overseas. Locally the number of Canberrans donating blood has fallen by 17 per cent since 2005, while across Australia the number of new donors has been decreasing by 30 per cent each year since 2008. The ACT blood supply is propped up by a number of repeat donors giving generously multiple times a year. I am, in fact, one of these repeat donors. It is vital that we maintain adequate blood reserves for Australians in need. Given this shortage, now is the perfect time to revisit the current policy on receiving blood donations from same-sex-attracted men.

The current law is a blanket ban that prevents any man who has had sex with another man in the past 12 months from donating blood. This 12-month waiting period is known as the deferral period. Given the time frame, this is essentially a total ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood. This is regardless of factors including monogamous relationships and consistent safe sex practices. This is unfair. The deferral period was put in place in Australia in 2000. Prior to this all sexually active gay men were banned from donating blood indefinitely. This policy came about at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS remains the reason that gay men are still subject to this 12-month waiting period. The reason for the current policy is a risk prevention policy. Gay men remain the most likely group to contract the virus in Australia. Currently, all donated blood in Australia is screened for HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted and bloodborne diseases. The safety of those receiving donated blood undoubtedly must remain the key priority of any policy regulating blood donation. However, given the scientific advancement since 2000 this does not negate gay men from donating.

The window between contraction and detection of HIV/AIDS has been drastically reduced to approximately 22 days according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. All donated blood to the Australian Red Cross is screened, which detects the


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