The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s decision to revise the blood donation deferral period for gay and bisexual men to three months is a sensible improvement that will expand the pool of blood donors when implemented.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations said the decision better aligned blood donation policy with scientific evidence.

Until now the deferral period has been 12 months.

“This decision is an important improvement that better aligns Australia’s blood donation policy with scientific evidence,” said Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“The goal of our policy should be to ensure the safety of the blood supply while encouraging the largest possible pool of donors. The previous 12 month deferral period was excessive.

“This decision brings us in line with comparable nations such as Canada, and the United Kingdom. AFAO wishes to thank Lifeblood, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and other organisations that have supported this important reform.”

Mr O’Donnell noted the deferral did not yet apply to people who use the HIV prevention medicine pre-exposure prophylaxis.

“The wide-spread use of PrEP outside clinical trials is relatively recent and there hasn’t been enough real-world data at this stage to support a shorter deferral period for PrEP users. We’re continuing to work closely with Lifeblood on this issue and will advocate for a lower deferral as soon as evidence allows. Our strong focus remains ensuring the highest standards of blood safety and ensuring no donor is needlessly excluded.”

The TGA’s decision now needs to be approved by Commonwealth, state and territory governments and implemented by Lifeblood (formerly the Blood Service).

Further information: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032