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Health – Blood Donations

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Health, Discrimination

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Minister, another topic raised by us in relation to men who have sex with men is their capacity to participate as blood donors, given that we have a very serious need for blood. There are many men who have sex with men who would like the Government to lobby on their behalf to remove some now out-of-date blanket and discriminatory restrictions that have been placed on men who have sex with men.

This is a national issue that comes on the back of a decision made by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to lift a ban on blood donations from people who lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996. You might remember that that was as a result of mad cow disease. There was this blanket prohibition of people who had lived in the United Kingdom in that period because of the fear of transmission of mad cow disease.

The recent strong medical research is that there is a non significant risk to the blood supply between the individual risk assessments that should be done for each person when they go to give blood and the discriminatory, blanket, time based restrictions that are placed on men who have sex with men. Other countries, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Israel, France, Greece and Canada, have all now removed or are about to remove these old-fashioned time based deferrals for men who have sex with men. They have committed to do that by the end of this year.

Will you speak to our Tasmanian representative to the jurisdictional blood committee and ask them to make a strong representation to the committee to accept the current medical evidence of the low risk to our blood supply if individual risk assessments are used for everybody who gives blood? I am sorry that is such a complicated question at this time of the night.

Mr LAWLER - It is quite a complicated question.

Dr WOODRUFF - I can repeat any bit of it if you need.

Mr LAWLER - I am aware that the Tasmanian representative to the jurisdictional blood committee has met with a number of key stakeholders in this area and this issue has been discussed a number of times. I think the challenge is the fact that there are a number of key decision makers in the space. The TGA, as you've referenced, is one of those in terms of the referral period and the other also is Life Blood and Australian Red Cross Organisation that accepts those donations as well.

Dr WOODRUFF - My understanding is that their stacked by a particular religious position which has a strong historical antipathy to allowing access to the blood supply to men who have sex with men. Not matched by the medical evidence.

Mr LAWLER - I can't speak to that underlying ideology. I can understand the scientific argument and I can also understand the decisions made previously by the TGA around risk management. I am very happy to have that discussion with the jurisdictional blood committee representative who works within my area.