The Victorian Government has called on its federal counterpart to end the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood.
Current restrictions prevent gay and bisexual men from donating blood if they have had sex with other men in the previous 12 months.
State and federal ministers, including Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy, have agreed to review the time restriction in 2017.
“We know that making sure that we’ve got a really safe and secure blood supply is absolutely essential, but we also think that this is a policy that is not based on science,” she said.
“It seems to be all caught up in some of the post-1980s hysteria around the then AIDS epidemic.”
The 12-month blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men has been a public health standard since HIV first appeared in Australia.
Ms Hennessy argued that risks in HIV transmission could be mitigated through testing blood donations.
The Red Cross tests every donation but cannot detect HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the early weeks of infection.
According to the organisation, there has been just one case of HIV transmission via blood donation since testing began in 1985.
The risk of infection from a blood donation is less and one in 1 million.
Ms Hennessey is confident any possible risks are outweighed by the benefits and that current policy does not match up with the scientific evidence.
“All blood is tested and screened for all blood-borne viruses, and we think banning and excluding such a large group of people for such a long period of time is based more on discriminatory issues rather than on the science,” she said.
In 2013 the Red Cross recommended a reduction in the deferral period from 12 to six months, but this was rejected by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Chris Pycroft from the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said halving the deferral restrictions would not make much difference.
“Certainly for any kind of gay man that is sexually active, there is going to be very little difference between six months and 12,” he said.
“They’re still not going to be eligible to donate.
“I think particularly if there’s going to be a large review that is going to take place, I think a lot more evidence needs to be considered.”
Mr Pycroft said the ability to donate blood would mean a lot to the gay community.
“It’s a little bit disappointing because you can see the urgent need for blood donation, particularly during critical times of the year, and we can’t actually do it,” he said.
“Any kind of progress which allows gay men to be able to donate blood is a very welcome thing.”