Gay activists have accused the Red Cross of scare tactics on the first day of a hearing in Hobart yesterday.

A change to blood donor rules sought by a gay man to remove discrimination threatens to bring infection and death, according to the Australian Red Cross, reports The Age.

Electronics technician Michael Cain, 21, of West Launceston, was rejected as a donor in October 2004, after replying “yes” in the Red Cross questionnaire to whether he had had gay sex in the past 12 months.

The tribunal heard homosexual sex is lawful in Tasmania, where legislation prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or lawful sexual activity.

The Australian Red Cross donor rule rejecting sexually active gay men is being challenged before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, which was told yesterday it amounted to textbook discrimination.

The organisation replied that the proposed change would be an experiment with the blood supply that made humans the guinea pigs, at real risk of HIV infection.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, described the Red Cross opening statement in defence of the current ban as a “statistical diatribe against gay men.”

“The Red Cross cited statistics about rates of HIV and other infections in the gay community which were misleading because the infections in question arise from unsafe sex, not gay sex, and because almost all these infections are increasing dramatically in other groups which aren’t banned from blood donation,” Mr Croome said.

“It was particularly offensive and unprofessional for the Red Cross to assert that “monogamy is a myth” in regard to men who have sex with men.”

Cain’s solicitor, Peter Tree, highlighted the fact that risk of HIV infection is based on safety of sexual activity, not gender of sexual partner.

Mr Tree said it was “illogical and medically flawed” to ban all sexually-active gay men from donating blood.

“The appropriate screen ought be based on unsafe sexual activity.”

Mr Tree also highlighted statistics showing the failure of the current screening process to eliminate all HIV positive blood donations, especially from heterosexual donors.

The hearing will continue next Tuesday.