Cherie Eteveneaux’s 24-year-old son Corey couldn’t be saved after he was fatally injured in a car crash in February. But she and Corey’s partner, Daniel Jacobs, still hoped his life could help others.
The New Zealand man’s organs couldn’t be donated due to the timing of his death, but his heart valve and corneas were perfectly fine.
Donated heart tissues such as heart valves are used to repair heart defects in young children and babies, which greatly improves their chances of having normal lifespans. So, Corey’s mother and partner made the generous decision to offer the tissues for donation, only to be told they weren’t suitable because he was gay.
Bec Craven caught a cold overseas and ended up with heart failure and needing a donation. Post continues.
“I spoke with a woman from Organ Donation NZ and initially I thought she wanted to speak to me about Corey’s tattoos and when the last time was he had work done,” told NZ’s Sunday Star Times.
“Instead she told me they couldn’t take Corey’s heart valves or corneas because of his lifestyle. Eventually, she said it was because he’s a homosexual man.”
The reason Corey was rejected as a donor is the same reason some men in Australia are rejected for blood and tissue donation, according to the Australian Red Cross.
The regulations preclude men who have had sex with other men in the past 12 months from donating because of the statistically greater risk they will have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) than straight men and women. In both Australia and New Zealand organ donations by gay men are accepted.
But just how much greater is the risk?
In Corey’s case, his partner Daniel and he were both tested for HIV when they began their exclusive relationship two years ago. Cherie thought this reason alone should have allowed his tissue to be donated, but also didn’t see why gay men were treated any differently.
“I can’t see why we as homosexual men need to be discriminated against for what we do behind closed doors. We’re still humans, we’re no different to any people walking down the street.
“I know Corey would have loved to have helped someone, but some poor family has lost out.”
More generally, in both Australia and New Zealand, less than 0.2 percent of the population lives with HIV, but most of these people are gay or bisexual men.
However, Australian Federations of AIDS Organisations chief executive Darryl O’Donnell told Mamamia current HIV testing and statistics mean Australia’s current policy around accepting blood and tissue donation was outdated.
“Australia’s current HIV blood donor policy is not based on the latest evidence and is needlessly excluding too many people from blood donation.
“The 12-month deferral period for men who have sex with men is excessive and inconsistent with expert evidence.”
O’Donnell did not say a wait time for donation should be abolished altogether, but that it should be reduced.
“Recently the UK reduced the deferral period for men who have sex with men to three months,” he said.
“The sexual activity deferral period in Australia should be significantly reduced to ensure it is consistent with current evidence and allows the greatest possible donor pool, while protecting safety.”
Bec Craven on the moment she found out she was getting a heart transplant. Post continues.
He said the AFAO was “working closely” with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, looking at current evidence and making recommendations for the future.
“We need a sensible approach that ensures the safety of the blood supply, with the largest possible pool of donors.”
Meanwhile, Frances Arns, who heads an organisation that supports gay young people in New Zealand told the Sunday Star Times the issue should come down to if a person has had unprotected sex, regardless of their sexuality.
“Remove the reference to gender and sexuality. If you’ve have unprotected sex in the last three months and you’re not sure what your status is, then you shouldn’t really donate.”