4 Sep 2022

Assoc. Prof Peter Saxton on whether it’s possible to keep the supply of blood safe without excluding men who have sex with men

From Smart Talk, 7:05 pm on 4 September 2022

Community health expert Dr Peter Saxton explores the balancing act of keeping New Zealand's blood supply safe from infectious diseases while ensuring we have enough donors and can uphold our values as a progressive, inclusive nation. (A highlight from the University of Auckland's Raising the Bar series)

Blood donor at donation

Photo: 123RF

Aotearoa New Zealand has one of the safest blood supplies in the world but our recent shortage of A+ blood donors raises the question of whether our deferral policies are too conservative.

This talk focuses on New Zealand’s controversial policy that excludes gay men from donating blood if they’ve had sex in the last three months. Many view this as discriminatory, unscientific and inconsistent with modern, safe-sex approaches.

Elsewhere, Canada is lifting some restrictions on gay men donating blood, and Australia recently removed ‘mad cow disease' (vCJD) from its list of theoretical concerns, opening the door to people who lived in the UK during the 1980s/90s.

Peter discusses blood testing and deferral policies, trust in institutions, the framing of donating blood as a moral act, the harms of being excluded, what alternative policies could look like, the implications of change, and the potential increase in new donors.

More listening:

Winter illnesses and COVID causing blood donor problems

Making blood donations fairer for gay, bisexual, takatapui men

Assoc. Prof. Peter Saxton  

Andrew Saxton

Photo: University of Auckland

Peter Saxton is an Associate Professor in the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Peter’s training spans epidemiology, sociology and public policy. He works closely with policymakers, non-government organisations, communities and the media to improve HIV prevention programmes. Peter’s work on HIV behavioural surveillance is internationally recognised, and his current project, SPOTS: Sex and Prevention Of Transmission Study, aims to improve blood donation and reduce undiagnosed HIV among gay and bisexual men. He is the inaugural recipient of the NZ AIDS Foundation Fellowship and received the Australasian Sexual Health Association Interdisciplinary Achiever Award in 2016.

This session was broadcast in association with the University of Auckland’s Raising the Bar night, held in August 2022

Raising the Bar Auckland logo

Photo: University of Auckland