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Call for end to blanket blood ban stands

Mon 15 Dec 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Rainbow Wellington maintains New Zealand should go a step further and remove the blanket post-sex stand-down period for gay and bisexual men giving blood, and use individual risk assessments instead. The period men have to wait before donating blood after anal or oral sex with another man, has today dropped from five years to one. The recommendation was made by a team which carried out a review for the New Zealand Blood Service, and is the same for other groups at elevated probability of undiagnosed HIV infection. Read more about its recommendations here Rainbow Wellington Chair Rawa Karetai says it’s a move in the right direction. He says the one year deferral is not a radical step - saying as the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) itself points out, this brings us into line with other countries such as Australia and the UK. However he adds, “We remain disappointed that blanket bans remain, with no real move towards individual risk assessment, such as we have consistently argued for”. The review group rejected a risk based assessment of actual sexual behaviour, saying no research has been published in the area, and it would also mean gay and bi men would be hit with invasive in-depth questions about their sex lives. Rainbow Wellington claims the report "seemed to run out of medical reasons for at least one of the continuing deferral criteria, falling back on [the conservative nature of Blood Service activities]." As the NZBS accepted all of the group’s recommendations, Karetai says “we can but assume that they agree that this is a valid reason for continuing deferral in some areas.” He says the NZBS is still discriminating against men who have sex with men. “Sex is an intimate part of life. The reality is we now have the science to do rapid testing for HIV and purely banning gay men from donating blood who have sex regardless of whether or not they do so safely with or without a condom is discrimination.” Karetai says Rainbow Wellington is aware that the regrettable increase in cases of HIV among gay and bisexual in recent years is a major contribution to the continuing caution. “Nevertheless, it remains the case that many gay men who wish to give blood and are individually clearly safe to do so still cannot donate. We therefore hope that such reviews and changes will continue until all are able to agree that individual risk assessment for [gay and bisexual men] is now a realistic option.” Rainbow Wellington says it notes a ‘Gay Community Summary Guide’ on the changes has been produced for the New Zealand Blood Service by the University of Auckland. “This pamphlet also represents a step forward, and we are particularly encouraged by the attention paid in it to the issues relating to those closeted gay men who find themselves unable to donate when the Blood Service visits their place of employment. This has been a problem we have long highlighted in the context of the way blood donor campaigns are conducted in New Zealand,” Karetai says.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 15th December 2014 - 4:30pm

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