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Gay donations would mean more safe blood, tribunal told

PinkNews Staff Writer November 10, 2008

70,000 new donors are needed in France each year. (Getty Images)

An anti-discrimination tribunal in Australia has been told that lifting a ban on gay men giving blood would increase the amount of safe transfusions available.

The case was initiated by would-be gay donor Michael Cain, who was barred from giving blood on the grounds of his sexuality.

The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in Hobart heard closing submissions last week.

Mr Cain’s lawyer, Peter Tree SC, told the tribunal that there are gay men who have a much lower risk of HIV than many heterosexuals and that the blood from these men could save lives if it was accepted

Mr Tree also accused the Red Cross of exaggerating the HIV risk associated with gay sex to “extreme” levels.

“The Red Cross has assisted in perpetuating the stereotype that gay sex is risky and unhealthy”, he said.

Mr Tree went on to say that the Red Cross has known since 2001 that there is no medical evidence to support a ban on men engaging in a range of sexual activities with other men, including oral sex.

“This alone should compel the tribunal to find that the Red Cross policy is unjustifiable.”

The lawyer for the Red Cross Blood Service, Jeremy Ruskin SC, also began his closing submission.

Addressing Mr Tree’s claim that blood donation is an altruistic act from which gay men should not be excluded, Mr Ruskin told the tribunal it is more altruistic not to give blood when there are such risks associated with all gay sex.

In August the tribunal heard from the primary Red Cross witness, Dr Brenton Wylie, a member of the Red Cross management committee.

During Dr Wylie’s cross examination, Mr Tree SC presented documents containing the advice of the Red Cross’ chief epidemiological advisor Dr John Kaldor.

According to these documents, Dr Kaldor advised the Red Cross in 2001:

“Based on current epidemiological evidence, there is no justification for excluding donors on the basis of oral sex.

“It would seem prudent to defer donors who have had male anal sex without a condom…for a donor who has had anal sex only with a condom, the risk is far lower.”

Mr Cain went on to suggest that, judging by the evidence from the documents, the Red Cross also ignored a request by the Australian Medical Association to “obtain views on high risk heterosexual relationships” in relation to blood donation.

Mr Cain then pointed out that Dr Wylie had previously claimed that gay and bisexual men were thousands of times more likely to have HIV than straight people, despite the fact that only 0.5% of Tasmanian gay and bisexual men are HIV-positive.

Closing submissions are expected to conclude on Monday November 17th.

More: Australia

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