MADDINGTON resident Jason Argenta believes he has one of the answers to helping the one in three Australians who need a blood donor in their lifetime – allow gay men to donate.
“Any individual in dire need of a blood transfusion would take gay blood over no blood,” Mr Argenta said.
“I’m not angry or upset about the ban; I just don’t understand it.
“It’s almost like there is this underlying assumption that my partner or I are more likely to stray from our relationship.”
The Blood Service defer donations from men who have sex with men (MSM) unless they have been celibate for 12 months.
However, the 23-year-old said he and his partner had been tested for blood-borne diseases and were not at risk of contracting any.
“I honestly can’t think of a good reason why people wouldn’t want my blood,” he said.
“The deferral system gives the impression we are dirty and diseased.”
In 2009, Mr Argenta wrote a letter to the Blood Service expressing his concern that he could not give blood.
He was encouraged to look at the Cain v The Australian Red Cross Society  case that recommended a review of the deferral system, which Professor Steve Wesselingh has led.
Professor Wesselingh told Comment News his team was in the process of submitting its review to the Red Cross.
WA AIDS Council executive director Trish Langdon said she sympathised with Jason’s situation.
“The deferral system is a blunt instrument… it doesn’t make sense in lots of ways,” she said.
Ms Langdon said ultimately the Red Cross met the needs of the recipient and not the donor.
“It comes down to mathematics… gay men have a much higher exposure to HIV,” she said.
The professor’s review inspired Mr Argenta to organise a petition against the ban on MSM giving blood.
Mr Argenta said he did not understand or support the reasons behind the deferral system.
“I do not want to give blood any more or less than the next willing donor… I just do not think it’s fair that I am not able to,” he said.
Australian Red Cross Blood Service media manager Kathy Bowlen said the reasoning behind the national screening practices was quite sound.
“The patients who rely on donated blood need that blood to be as safe as possible,” she said.
Ms Bowlen said according to research from the University of NSW in 2010, 90 per cent of newly diagnosed cases of HIV infection in Australia involved MSM.
“When it comes to HIV, the statistics indicate that cases in Australia continue to be transmitted primarily through MSM,” she said.
A WA Department of Health spokesman said their position was in accord with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
“Any change to current policy will depend on the recommendations of the Blood Rules Review,” the spokesman said.
Mr Argenta is aiming to gather 200 signatures before Professor Wesselingh’s review is finished.
Mr Argenta said he hoped people believed they could influence the findings.
“I would like the same amount of trust imbued in me that is imbued in other willing donors… I would like the same right to help save lives,” he said.
“We can’t change anything if people sit back and don’t have their say.”