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Wednesday 08 April 2009

New blood donor rules specific on gay sex

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News, Health & HIV
By Daily News Staff - 6th March 2009

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Men who have had sex with a man anytime the last five years still cannot donate blood, say new guidelines made official this week by the New Zealand Blood Service.


Up until now, the official blood donor form stated: "You should not give blood for TEN YEARS following any occasion in which you have had sex with another man, even 'safer sex' using a condom (if you are a male)."

From this week, the stand-down period is reduced, and the sexual acts involved are specified: "You must not give blood for FIVE YEARS following oral or anal sex with or without a condom with another man (if you are male)."

The new rules also state: "You must not give blood for ONE YEAR if you are a woman, after engaging in sex with a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man."

The new guidelines are designed to reduce the risk of the Blood Service obtaining donations containing HIV. Although each blood donation is tested, if a person has just come into contact with the HIV virus, it can take some weeks before it appears in tests.

Community views

An independent expert review had studied the Blood Service's donor criteria, getting feedback from health experts, the NZ AIDS Foundation, and gay men in the community, including readers, and the Rainbow Wellington network.

The changes, made public last June, had been welcomed by the NZ AIDS Foundation, as focusing on "sexual behaviour, not on sexuality", but the Rainbow Wellington group blasted the new guidelines, saying the Blood Service will still exclude gay men who are of 'minimal risk' of passing on HIV.

Overseas controversy

Blood donation bans on gay men is a hot topic around the world at the moment. Many countries, such as Canada, the UK, the USA, and France, have a permanent deferral meaning men who have had sex with men can never donate blood. South Africa specifies five years, while Australia, Argentina, Hungary and Japan specifies just one year.

UK gay equality group Stonewall latest statement is calling on Britain's National Blood Service to lift the blanket lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, which it believes is discriminatory.

Meanwhile, Russia's Ministry of Health and Social Development repealed its blanket ban on blood donations by gay people last May, admitting that the ban had been used to stigmatise gay men as a group at high risk of HIV infection along with prostitutes and drug users.