Australian Red Cross Blood Service
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service (ARCBS) is a branch of the Australian Red Cross. It is the body primarily responsible for blood donation and related services in Australia. Australian Red Cross Blood Service employs around 4000 employees across scientific, medical and support services, processing over half a million non-remunerated blood donors each year.
The Blood Service is funded by the governments of Australia and is a division of Australian Red Cross.
The Red Cross's Australian blood services were initially managed by state-level organisations. Victoria's Blood Transfusion Service was founded in 1929, and by 1941 each state had its own Organ Transfusion Service. Also in 1941, the National Emergency Blood Transfusion Service (later the National Blood Transfusion Committee) was formed to coordinate the state groups. In 1945, the Red Cross took over blood and serum preparation units established by the Australian Army.
In 1995, a government report recommended the foundation of a separate national structure, and the ARCBS was formed in 1996, encompassing the old state and territory blood donation/transfusion services.
Relationship with CSL
ARCBS and its predecessors had a long-standing relationship with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), a government medical body founded in 1916. The Red Cross supplied CSL with donated blood for use in research and manufacture of medical products (e.g. serum for transfusion).
In 1994, CSL was privatised, becoming CSL Limited. The ARCBS continued to supply CSL with donated blood.
As with other blood transfusion services, the ARCBS has had to strike a balance between protecting blood recipients against infection, and accepting enough donors to maintain an adequate supply of blood. This has led to debate over which categories of potential donors should be excluded. For example, to protect against CJD, the ARCBS now refuses donations from anybody who lived in the United Kingdom for a total of six months or more between 1980 and 1996.
In 2003, a federal government report found that despite the introduction of Hepatitis C screening from February 1990, infected donors were told to keep donating until July of that same year; a total of 20,000 people were estimated to have been infected with Hepatitis C via blood products. Some infected blood was given to CSL and may have been used in thousands of CSL products, although it has not been shown that any of these products caused infection in the recipients.
The service has a policy of barring men who have had sex with men (MSM) during the previous twelve months from donating blood (an earlier policy had excluded any men who had had sex with other men since 1980, regardless of time elapsed). This has been the source of ongoing controversy, with a case (in 2008) referred to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission. People who have engaged in heterosexual or female-to-female sex during the past 12 months are allowed to give blood. Female-to-female transmission is considered by the Centers for Disease Control to be rare. As well as deferring blood donations from MSM, other categories of sexual activity can also result in a 12 month deferral, such as sex with a prostitute or having a partner who has tested positive to hepatitis B or C.
In 2014 gay men again requested that the Australian Red Cross Blood Service permit them to donate blood. The Red Cross in noting their concern said they were receptive to a reduction in the current deferral period from 12 to 6 months, but the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, has rejected their submission on this issue. The Red Cross say they do not defer based on sexuality or relationships, but rather on sexual activity and for this reason it is not possible to deal with MSM on an individual basis.
- http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/08/15/2337087.htm Gay safe sex poses low risk to blood supply, tribunal hears
- http://www.thebody.com/cdc/femtrans.html Female-to-Female Transmission of HIV CDC National AIDS Hotline Training Bulletin #139
- http://www.donateblood.com.au/Donor/guide/eligible.asp Australian Red Cross Blood Donor Eligibility
- Stott, Rob (19 May 2014). "Blood donation rules continue to exclude healthy donors". News Ltd. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- "Fact Finder: Our response to news.com.au's gay blood donation article". Australian Red Cross Blood Service. 19 May 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.