If gay men were permitted to safely donate blood, we could potentially save thousands of extra lives each year.
By continuing to adhere to an outdated law created in 1984 which prohibits sexually-active gay men from donating, not only are we continuing the negative stigma around gay men and disease, but we are severely limiting our country’s ability to help save the lives of those who need blood.
The eligibility to donate blood in Australia limits any male who in the last 12 months has engaged in anal or oral sex with another male or any female who has sex with a male who may have had anal or oral sex with another man. I.e. this “at risk behaviour” is limited to gay males.
Well here’s a newsflash everyone – it’s 2018 and straight people have anal sex too, and some guys are having sex with guys and not telling their girlfriends or wives.
Therefore, they could be just as “at risk” as us gays. Why then does Australia continue to lag behind countries like South Africa, Spain, Italy and others which allow sexually-active gay men to donate blood?
Testing has evolved so much since 1984 that the window of when HIV antibodies can be detected is as little as 3 weeks in some cases (according to the University of California), rather than the current 12-month period of abstinence required which results in huge volumes of gay men being unable to donate.
To put it into perspective, this law was introduced at the height of the AIDS panic – a time when AIDS was referred to as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), also referred to as “gay cancer” and the “gay plague”.
Those names contributed heavily to the marginalisation and negative stigma of gay men. Haven’t we come such a long way since then, even most recently recognising that same-sex couples deserve the same right to marry as heterosexual couples?
Yet we continue to stick to outdated laws which disregard the latest testing technologies and perpetuate homophobic misunderstandings that we are unclean and less than equal.
Currently, the Red Cross is pushing for the waiting period to be reduced to 6 months, but this is still too long and inferior to the countries I mentioned above.
This leads me to ask, what is at risk here? The most obvious is, of course, the lives of those who so desperately need blood in the time of emergency.
The second and perhaps less obvious is again lives – but this is the lives of gay men who continue to take their own lives each year because of compounded discrimination and negative stigma.
Come on Australia, you’ve come such a long way this year, but you have such a long way to go.
For more on Daniel and the other finalists of Mr. Gay Pride Australia visit the website www.mrgayprideaustralia.com