Sexual activity

Your health and safety  and that of Australian patients  is our priority, which is why you must meet certain requirements every time you donate blood. These requirements are subject to the approval of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s regulatory authority on the blood and tissue sector.

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, you’ll need to wait 3 months before you can donate.

In the last 3 months, have you:

  • had oral or anal sex with another man, even ‘safer sex’ using a condom (if you’re a man)
  • had sex (with or without a condom) with a male who you think may have had oral or anal sex (with or without a condom) with another man?
  • been a male or female sex worker (i.e. received payment for sex in money, gifts or drugs?)
  • had sex with a male or female sex worker?
  • engaged in sexual activity with someone who ever injected drugs not prescribed by a doctor or dentist?
  • engaged in sexual activity with someone who was found to have HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infection?

In the last 12 months, have you had sexual activity with a new partner who currently lives or has previously lived overseas? If ‘yes’, you may need to wait to donate depending on the level of HIV risk in your partner’s country of residence.

On a related note, if you’re taking pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis (PrEP), you’ll need to wait 12 months since your last dose before you can donate. This is because there is evidence that shows PrEP impacts the ability of our tests to pick up early HIV infection.

Frequently asked questions

Check out our responses to frequently asked questions related to sexual activity. 

Why do you ask about my health history?

Our donation criteria, and questions on the donor questionnaire form, are designed to ensure that the blood collection process is as safe as possible for blood donors and patients alike. 

Our pre-donation screening includes a questionnaire made up of three sections. The first looks at the health history of first-time donors and the second is a medical questionnaire for all donors. These two sections are designed to identify possible medical issues in potential donors, as well as general risks of infection. 

The third section is a legal declaration for you to fill out, pertaining to specific infection risks such as sexual activity and blood exposures. Some of these questions ask about ‘sexual contact’ and ‘sex’. We use these terms to refer to any sexual activities including vaginal, oral or anal. 

Is Lifeblood being discriminatory in making gay men wait 3 months to donate?

No, our policy considers an assessment of risk, and does not discriminate against anyone. Postponements are in place for any number of potential donors who may be more likely to be exposed to infection or present other risks to patients. 

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has visited this issue, and agrees that we are not being discriminatory with our deferral policy for men who have sex with men.

I’m in an exclusive relationship, why can’t I donate blood?

We understand that there are different levels of risk among men who have sex with men. The latest information from the Kirby Institute (University of NSW) states that HIV continues to be transmitted primarily through sexual contact between men. Even within declared monogamous relationships, the risk is on average 50 times higher than in heterosexual couples.

I'm taking pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis (PrEP). Will this affect my ability to donate?

Yes. If you’re taking pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis (PrEP) you’ll need to wait 12 months since your last dose before you can donate. This is because there is evidence that shows PrEP impacts the ability of our tests to pick up early HIV infection.

Don’t you test blood for HIV?

Yes, we test every donation. However, even this sophisticated testing is unable to detect the early presence of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. We refer to this as a ‘window period’ – it’s a time when the infection is just starting and isn’t yet detectable. This is why we can’t rely on testing alone.

I disagree with you. Can I skip the question about men who have sex with men?

The donor questionnaire is a legal document that people must answer honestly. The rules around who can and can’t donate blood help to ensure that the blood supply in Australia is as safe as possible for patients.

It’s been years since anyone was infected with HIV because of a blood donation. Time to relax the rules?

Our medical experts are always reviewing the latest scientific and medical evidence. In 2020 the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and state and federal governments approved a Lifeblood submission to reduce the donation postponement for donors with a higher sexual activity-based risk from 12 to three months, since the last sexual contact. This change was implemented in early 2021.

How do you come to these decisions?

Our blood donation rules are based on research and international policy. Following a comprehensive review of our sexual activity postponement policies, we made a submission to the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to reduce the donation postponement for donors with a higher sexual activity-based risk from 12 months to three months since the last sexual contact. This was approved by the TGA and state and federal governments, and was implemented in early 2021.

What do they do in the rest of the world?

When we compare our policies with other blood services internationally, the Australian 3-month postponement policy is the same as, or shorter than the postponements in most other blood services around the world. For example, the postponement in Greece and Singapore is indefinite, whereas in Norway and Sweden it is 12 months. Several other countries have also moved to a 3-month postponement period, including New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

Shouldn’t I have the right to donate?

Everyone has the right to receive safe blood, and our greatest concern is ensuring the safety of the blood supply. While we wish everyone could donate, we defer people for many reasons, including ensuring their own health.

Where can I find out more about the recent review?

Read more about the recent review. We welcome your feedback.  

 

Sexual activity policy feedback

Keeping Australia’s blood supply safe is a priority for Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. Know more about the policy or give feedback.

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