FUSE29 — Bad Blood

Over the past month my partner and I have been making a weekly tip to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. My grandfather has recently had a double heart bypass and in a few weeks will have another major surgery for an aortic aneurysm. It’s pretty serious stuff and it’s got me thinking about blood.

We listen to the radio a lot while on our long drives and if anyone else has noticed we are currently being bombarded with donate blood ads, as our hospital system is always struggling to get enough for people like my grandfather.

I’ve never given blood, but I would like too. However, because I’m a gay man and considered at high risk of having contaminated blood, The Red Cross requires I abstain from sex for a minimum of one year, before being eligible to donate blood. This makes the assumption that most gay men have multiple partners and practice unsafe sex whilst heterosexual men don’t.

I understand the concern about infected blood however the Red Cross should not be looking at sexual orientation but rather the lifestyle choices of the whole community at large. Blood screening should be standard for everybody.

It makes me pretty bloody mad. I’m an extremely healthy individual that has been in  a monogamous relationship for over 15 years now and my chances of contracting HIV or other STDs are virtually zero.

The Red Cross recently released the results of a review it commissioned on its blood donor policy. The review did not recommend the removal of the “gay blood ban” and  standard blood screening for everyone. Instead it recommended the reduction of the period of celibacy for men-who-have-sex-with-men wishing to donate blood from twelve to six months. It’s absolutely ludicrous that I can’t give blood today and it also means a lot of potential donors with safe blood in the community are being overlooked.

Michael Cain, Australia’s leading campaigner for gay blood donation is in a similar position to myself and recently commented “…I believe it’s unsafe sex, not gay sex, that poses a risk to the blood supply, and that if all potential blood donors — gay and straight — are screened for the safety of their sexual activity the blood supply will be even safer than it is.”

Case in point: Italy and Spain currently screen all blood donors for the safety of their sexual activity rather than their sexual preference, and the rate of infection through blood transfusion has actually decreased.

Michael Cain is calling for an independent review to break through the myths and misconceptions that surround this issue, not by the organisation whose policies are in question, but by the Federal Government. But in the meantime it seems my blood is staying put.

Enjoy, Alex

FUSE 29 — Bad Blood (Boy Issue)

FUSE 29 — Bad Blood (Girl Issue)

David Sedaris Jan23 Canberra

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