Should sexuality be considered for blood donation eligibility?

Long Lunch 28/09/2018
Photo: iStock.

A public health expert wants to clarify why blood donations are rejected based on sexual orientation.

New Zealand Blood Service recently banned a gay man from donating because of HIV risk, despite the man’s desirable O-Negative blood type.

Dr Peter Saxton, a research fellow at the University of Auckland, told RadioLIVE that he understands why people are passionate about the issue.

“The key thing though – and I think a lot of people misunderstand this – is that testing on its own isn’t foolproof,” he said.

Warren Dempsey-Coy, who’s been in a monogamous marriage for 34 years, told Stuff that the ban was “discrimination” against sexual orientation.

"My husband and I have fought for civil unions, the right to marry, we've had to fight our whole lives to be entitled to things everyone should have, we're coming up 60 and the fact I still cannot give blood is ridiculous," Mr Dempsey-Coy said.

The Blood Service's rules state that men who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months are not eligible to give blood, whether or not a condom is used.

Dr Saxton clarified that while all blood is tested before distribution, it’s unable to detect recent, undiagnosed infections.

According to his research, gay and bisexual men are statistically more likely to be carrying an undiagnosed infection.

“Although it’s a really low risk, it’s still relatively higher compared to other groups in New Zealand.”

Listen to the full interview with Peter Saxton above.

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