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The ‘absurd’ ban that keeps Ky Ruprecht and his partner from donating blood

Lachlan Roberts 13 August 2019 71

Couple Ky Ruprecht and Connor Lynch are not allowed to donate blood. Photo: Supplied.

Local medical student Ky Ruprecht and nurse Connor Lynch were shocked to find that they were not allowed to donate blood to the Red Cross.

They haven’t had a tattoo in the past four months, they have healthy hearts, they do not have any sexual diseases, they have not injected recreational drugs in the past five years nor have they been overseas recently. Yet they were still turned away from the blood bank.

According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, the men have engaged in ‘at risk’ sexual activity in the past 12 months – meaning they have had sex with each other in the past 12 months.

According to the current policy enforced by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Red Cross will turn away a man if he has had sex with another man, regardless of protection, in the past 12 months.

A man who has had sex with a man who may have had sex with another man in the past 12 months, will also be turned away.

“Connor went to donate at a Red Cross van that was set up at the University of Canberra campus when he was studying,” Mr Ruprecht told Region Media. “He was turned away and he had no idea that the policy was being upheld.

“Many people are unaware that as a man in a same-sex relationship in Australia, I cannot donate my blood. We are in a long term monogamous relationship and we are both negative for any bloodborne diseases.

“Currently, a heterosexual person can engage in unprotected sex with as many partners as they like, in whatever way they like and are still eligible to donate. A monogamous gay man who can prove his negative disease status cannot.”

The Blood Service has been deferring donors who declare a history of male to male sex since the mid-1980s, while the current 12-month deferral period was introduced in 2000. In November 2017, UK blood services began incrementally moving from 12 to three months for deferrals for all sexual activity-based risks including male-to-male sex.

The Australian Red Cross said its current deferral policy is based on Australian scientific data that indicated men who have sex with men pose the greatest risk of HIV transmission.

“It has almost been 20 years later, the screening is much better and the education awareness is much better,” Mr Ruprecht said. “We can even get married!

“The policy is outdated, it is prejudicial, and it invalidates our relationships.

“On the back of the blood shortage that was announced last week, if your blood bank is in dire need for blood and you have a population that can donate that are perfectly healthy to donate, why are you denying us?”

According to their website, the Blood Service had previously proposed to the TGA to reduce all sexual activity-based deferrals from 12 to 6 months, which was not supported, keeping the 12-month deferral period as is.

In April last year, the ACT Government, led by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, wrote to the TGA and Federal Health Minister urging for them to consider a reduction of the deferral period to three months, in line with the UK.

The letter also asked the Federal Government to consider eliminating all deferral periods, in line with the policies of France and Israel.

But Mr Ruprecht said the reduction in the deferral period from 12 months to the proposed three months will not remove the barrier of men in long term same-sex relationships from donating.

Mr Ruprecht and Mr Lynch have launched a petition, which has garnered over 3,000 signatures at the time of writing, raising awareness about the “absurdity” of the current blanket ban placed on gay and bisexual men that deters them from donating blood.

“The current policy is a remnant of historical prejudice reinforcing the belief that all homosexual men engage in promiscuous and irresponsible sexual practice,” Mr Ruprecht said. “This blanket refusal of blood casts a wide net of unnecessary exclusion.

“Would you refuse our blood if you or your family were in need?”

Access the petition here

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62 Responses to
The ‘absurd’ ban that keeps Ky Ruprecht and his partner from donating blood
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1:59 am 14 Aug 19

I am banned for a different, equally absurd, reason

11:47 pm 13 Aug 19

I won't donate until everyone can!!!

    7:24 am 14 Aug 19

    Shannon Blakeden I'll still donate but rally for change. I'm O Neg and donated blood is used extensively for paediatric blood transfusions.

    7:28 am 14 Aug 19

    Don't make people suffer and die for this. Yes, it's ridiculous, but this isn't the way to address it.

    6:47 pm 14 Aug 19

    Well that’s just stupid.

    4:47 pm 16 Aug 19

    Shannon Blakeden dumbest protest ever, kicking people who are life and death in a protest that'll change nothing but mean you won't have to pitch in but somehow you feel smug and superior still...

9:26 pm 13 Aug 19

Good on you guys!

9:21 pm 13 Aug 19

Be proud Jane Sharman

8:07 pm 13 Aug 19

Just as absurd is my daughter and I can't give blood because we lived in the UK years ago. We're both o neg and very willing to give blood

Blen_Carmichael 7:51 pm 13 Aug 19

“Local medical student Ky Ruprecht and nurse Connor Lynch were shocked to find that they were not allowed to donate blood to the Red Cross.” You have to be kidding. Right or wrong, the policies banning gay males from donating have been around for years, and it defies belief that two people working in the medical profession would not have known of this.

7:43 pm 13 Aug 19

it is such a dumb policy and I can't believe it persists. Who is responsible for this?

    4:13 pm 14 Aug 19

    It was brought in during the AIDS hysteria in 1984 when three babies in Brisbane died from an HIV-infected blood donation. Days of front page headlines followed demanding a total ban on gays donating blood. National Party premier Joh Bjelke Petersen brought in the ban in Qld and the other states and territories followed. Since then a method has been developed to heat the blood slightly, killing the AIDS virus but the ban continues as a form of virtue signalling to the shock jocks and Murdoch journalists who scream blue murder if anybody talks about dropping the ban.

4:45 pm 13 Aug 19

Also, those of us who lived in the UK for a while in the 1990's cannot give blood either. I am going to go out on a limb and say I don't think I've developed mad cow disease lol...I am unafraid of needles and would donate often if allowed.

    8:54 pm 13 Aug 19

    Kriso Hadskini the problem is if you were infected they could only test for it in your brain. Post mortem.

    11:02 pm 13 Aug 19

    Tash Jay yeah I understand, but the chances are so minute.

    12:03 am 14 Aug 19

    Kriso Hadskini but what if you did donate blood, and then infected lots of people? I'm sure people receiving Australian blood are grateful that risk management policies are put in place.

4:29 pm 13 Aug 19

Being a monogamous gay man (or woman) is one of a whole armload of reasons people aren't allowed to donate. Having lived overseas in places where known diseases were prevalent (Mad Cow Disease), having low iron counts, having certain illnesses, being on certain medications, too high/too low blood pressure, being a sex worker, having had a needle stick injury, having had IVF treatment, etc, etc are all valid reasons for exclusion from donating. The rights of the recipient to receive untainted blood is paramount. I'm a donor. I even get knocked back not because there is anything wrong with my blood (I've been told mine has excellent antibodies), but because there is only one microscopic spot on my entire body they can get it from, and that one vein only works half the time. 🙂

    9:58 pm 13 Aug 19

    Karen Joy Stone Nowak I had lymphoma and have been clear for 10 years now but can never donate. That's life

    10:35 pm 13 Aug 19

    Kaz, jeepers, what a battle. Glad you've had the all clear. Mum had cancer and needed transfusions all the time. Would desperately love to be a regular donor, but they just can't find a vein to work, so I'm kind of disillusioned at the moment. One day things might magically work for me. xxxooo

4:22 pm 13 Aug 19

Great topic! The restriction on people who lived in the UK during ‘Mad Cow disease’ is flawed and not even followed by the English

    11:15 pm 13 Aug 19

    Likely because most of their donors are British and lived in the UK during that time and they would have almost no-one left to donate blood if they had that rule.

    2:52 am 14 Aug 19

    It's about weighing up relative risks. It's a small risk here but we have a sufficient population of eligible donors who never lived there in that period to supply our country, so we are able to choose that lowered risk. In the UK, it would be impossible to build a sufficient population of donors and so it is not possible to choose that lower risk. In essence, our blood supply is a little safer than theirs in that respect.

    7:30 am 14 Aug 19

    It's actually not absurd. I'm in the same boat. We have no way to test for mad cow disease, and it can be incubated for exceedingly long periods of time (we aren't even sure how long), including 40 years. Prion diseases are very nasty. It is for a very good reason. Then add what the others replying have said to explain why the UK is different.

    7:54 am 14 Aug 19

    I'm in the UK and didn't realise that we would be banned from donating abroad... Not that I can, anyway, having had surgery requiring blood transfusion.

    8:56 am 14 Aug 19

    Julie Macklin it is also because there is more known about that condition; thus the risks negligible. The exclusion criteria for blood donation is in need of review. They were created years ago and times have changed. Having a tattoo is no longer ‘high risk’ or likely done in unsafe BBV conditions. They are quite mainstream. By all means continue the post-donation testing. Just don’t rule out big demographics from donating, for judgemental and flawed reasoning.

4:06 pm 13 Aug 19

Good luck, stupid rule

3:40 pm 13 Aug 19

Great work.

2:40 pm 13 Aug 19

Does anyone have the link for the petition???? 😊

    3:29 pm 13 Aug 19

    Ciara Sheehan hey Ciara just thought I’d share the link if you were keen to take a look

2:17 pm 13 Aug 19

I agree Tania Shaw.

2:04 pm 13 Aug 19

Is there a link to the petition?

    3:30 pm 13 Aug 19

    Raina Burke Hi Raina just thought I’d send the link through if you were still keen to take a look

    3:49 pm 13 Aug 19

    Ky Ruprecht absolutely Ky. This is why I stopped giving blood - and plasma. If the blood of my friends is not wanted, They cannot have mine.

1:50 pm 13 Aug 19

1:29 pm 13 Aug 19

Thats fine but let's be clear here, target Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) with this issue and do NOT harass the ARCBS about this, which happens a lot.

    2:41 pm 13 Aug 19

    Good point, but the Red Cross are the frontline agency. If they considered the policy to conflict with their ethics, they could decide to give up the contract for the work.

    2:43 pm 13 Aug 19

    Neil Gavin The article makes it clear that the decision lies with the TGA

    3:54 pm 13 Aug 19

    Oliver Cannon a lot of pple dont read the articles and this issue is not new. Yet ppl still target the wrong corp about this issue.

    3:59 pm 13 Aug 19

    Peter Marshall I dont think thats a viable option really. ARCBS help save thousands of lives a year.

    I would guess they believe that must outweigh issues such as this and is far more important. Good of the many outweigh the few and they do brilliant work.

    7:35 pm 13 Aug 19

    If they didn't do it, someone else would. If there's an ethical issue, they should take a stand.

    10:41 pm 13 Aug 19

    Peter Marshall its not a ethical issue man. Its a they have to follow the current laws and policies as directed and in place by the TGA issue. Changing providers doesn't change this stance.

    It also doesnt mean that the TGA can't be challenged by any party to review current Australian policies when it comes to health care.

1:26 pm 13 Aug 19

Good on these people. Risk is what should be assessed.

    1:40 pm 13 Aug 19

    Tania Shaw it has been thoroughly asessed.. you may recieve blood one day, do you want 98% safe of the full 100%....?

    7:46 pm 13 Aug 19

    Scottie Avela how is sex from a sexually active heterosexual full 100% safe merely by coming from a heterosexual?

1:08 pm 13 Aug 19

Good work!

12:35 pm 13 Aug 19

Completely agree. Young people can bugger like rabbits and donate blood, but GOD FORBID if a gay couple do it.

Screen for STIs, and if it's all good, DONATE. The world needs more people like these two people.

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