Greens senator slams blood donation rules

Senator Janet Rice has questioned why a transgender woman can't give blood but her husband can.
Senator Janet Rice has questioned why a transgender woman can't give blood but her husband can.

Greens senator Janet Rice has blasted "ridiculous" rules preventing transgender women with male partners from donating blood in Australia.

The nation's blood collector and distributor Lifeblood bans some groups of people from donation based on global levels of risk.

The rules make men who have sex with other men wait three months after sexual contact to donate blood.

Senator Rice told a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday a transgender woman contacted her after being told she couldn't give blood despite 119 donations over the past 14 years.

The woman has been in a monogamous relationship with her male partner for 10 years with the pair now married.

"I don't know the details of her sex life and I don't want to," Senator Rice said.

"But I note that she has been banned from donating blood because of a high global risk of HIV being derived from anal intercourse with an anatomically male partner."

The Greens senator said the screening form didn't ask about activities beyond men having sex with other men.

Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt said the regulator would welcome evidence-based analysis from Lifeblood.

"Because blood donation in Australia is always a gift, it's not a fee for a service like in the US, some of the anti-discrimination rules and legislation that apply to provision of a paid service do not apply for a donation," he said.

Senator Rice questioned if a lack of funding was the reason for not following the UK's lead in applying individual risk assessments in each case.

"A trans woman married to a man can't donate blood, but the man she's married to can donate blood," she said.

"This is frankly ridiculous."

Professor Skerritt said Lifeblood and the regulator were looking closely at the UK model.

"It's Lifeblood at the moment who say their resources - and yes I guess everything in life comes down to money - cannot accommodate that," he said.

Senator Rice said the government could fix the problem with more funding.

"It basically says we're discriminating against men who have sex with men and transgender people on the basis of funding."

Australian Associated Press