Last month, France and Greece lifted their decades-old ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The United Kingdom did the same last year.
The blood ban feels more suited to the history books than the news headlines, but sadly this ban is still in place in many countries around the world - including Australia.
When I tell people about the ban, the news is normally met with disbelief. Disbelief that quickly turns to outrage.
"There is a ban?" they exclaim. "How can this still be the case in 2022?"
The truth is, I have no idea.
The move by France and Greece follows in the footsteps of many other countries around the world. In October last year, Israel lifted all restrictions on blood donations for gay and bisexual men.
Brazil, Hungary, Germany and many other countries have also lifted or eased restrictions.
But before giving blood in Australia, if you are male, you have to disclose to the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood service if you've had sex with another man in the past three months. If the answer is "yes", you are banned.
Working in the healthcare sector, I am acutely aware of the critical need for blood donations. I often see campaigns calling for more donors, and each time one passes me by, I can't help but feel sad.
In Australia, many people talk about how rewarding it is to donate blood. It provides them with a sense of community, a feeling that they are taking an active role in society by playing a small part in saving other people's lives.
My brother donates blood regularly. I can't, however, because of the discriminatory blood donor regulations against gay and bisexual men in our country.
As a gay man, I'm allowed to get married, be the managing director of an international organisation, and be elected as a City of Melbourne councillor to represent my community - but evidently in modern Australia if I donate blood, that's a bridge too far.
The ban makes as much sense as a schoolyard bully, and leaves my community feeling just as bruised.
"Stay in your lane, Jamal," I can hear them say. But unfortunately, it's not exactly peak hour in the blood donation lane.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has been actively calling for donations in the face of international blood shortages. Blood is needed somewhere in Australia every 24 seconds, but currently, only 3.5 per cent of people donate.
The technology to check for blood issues or viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C has also dramatically improved over time.
I don't know if anyone still needs to hear this in 2022, but not just gay men can contract HIV. Heterosexual men, women and other people get infected too. HIV doesn't discriminate, but people do.
The conversation around human rights in this country has been in the spotlight due to the pandemic.
We have seen hospitals rapidly changing their policies and workflows, and staff being redeployed as the health sector has evolved to cope with the influx of patients.
It's time for the rules around blood donations to evolve with the times and technologies.
Blood donation rules should be based on evidence rather than fear. Fact rather than fiction. The current policy stigmatises gay men, and changing it is one critical way to increase access to life-saving blood products in Australia.
Right now, access to blood products is more critical than ever. If you can donate, please consider donating blood today.
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