A campaign calling to end the ban on blood donation by gay men, bisexual men, transwomen and non-binary people who have sex with men, has been launched to coincide with World Blood Donor Day on June 14.
The campaign, Let Us Give, advocates for individual sexual assessment, which has been adopted elsewhere, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood's current policy requires these groups to abstain for three months before donating blood.
Campaign spokesperson Thomas Buxereau said changing to individual sexual assessment would help address Australia's chronic blood supply shortages.
With high levels of cancellations, reschedules and donors not attending appointments, Lifeblood says it needs an additional 7000 blood donations this week.
If the rules were to be altered, the Let Us Give campaign estimates another 25,000 litres could be made available every year to people in need.
"Our goal is simple, to help those in need by giving blood," Mr Buxereau said.
"We have launched a petition, and are encouraging our supporters to write to Lifeblood and to the new federal health minister, Mark Butler."
In 2020, the donation restrictions were reviewed to allow donors with recently inked tattoos to provide plasma without the mandatory wait period.
Just Equal Australia research advisor Dr Sharon Dane said the UK model, which the campaign advocates for, focused on screening all potential donors for behaviours that risk HIV contraction.
"If you've had anal sex with someone that you have only known for ... less than three months, then that would mean that you would have to defer giving blood," Dr Dane said.
"You can have anal sex with your long term partner, no problem."
Dr Dane said in Canada 61 per cent of new male HIV infections were from male-to-male sex, and 22 per cent from men engaging in heterosexual sex, yet the country had adopted individual risk assessment when screening blood donors.
"The proportion of new HIV cases that are attributed to men and transgender women who have sex with men no longer matters if you are prepared to treat all potential donors equally and if you don't fear asking everyone the same questions, as is the case with individual risk assessment," Dr Dane said.
"People who are being excluded say it's very hurtful because they're being stigmatised ... this is a fairly small group of people who do have HIV, so that whole category of people are then being discriminated and excluded because of it.
"So it's very much an equality thing, but it's also importantly a fair thing, and it's a safe thing."
A spokesperson for Lifeblood said while some countries had changed their rules, each had to consider their own HIV patterns.
"It makes sense for the UK and Canada to do this, because HIV cases aren't concentrated in one group, they are more evenly spread across the population," they said.
"Compared with the UK and Canada, HIV in Australia is more concentrated in those engaging in male-to-male sexual activity and in heterosexuals [it's] concentrated in those with a partner from a high-risk HIV area overseas."
The spokesperson said Lifeblood commissioned an expert and independent review panel in 2019 to consider the next steps for Australia.
"Based on current HIV data, this option isn't currently the best option for Australia. HIV rates in Australia are changing, and Lifeblood will continue to monitor those," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the three month wait time also applied to heterosexual risk groups, including those with a new sexual partner from a HIV prevalent country.
"We understand these rules exclude some groups from doing what others take for granted - helping sick people get better. We hear the hurt, frustration, and the anger and we understand the desire to help. We want that too," they said.
Lifeblood is currently investigating if the rule could be changed for plasma donations.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.