Australia: Tasmanian Man Challenges Ban on Gay Blood Donors
August 2, 2005
A gay man from Tasmania today filed legal challenges with the state's Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission claiming that the Australian Red Cross (ARC) policy prohibiting gay men from donating blood is discriminatory and unnecessary. Michael Cain, 22, tried to donate blood in Launceston in October but was told by a nurse that ARC Blood Service did not accept donations from men who have had sex with men in the past year.
"I know that I have had safe sex," said Cain, who claimed ARC discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and lawful sexual activity. "It almost felt like I was being accused of being a dirty person," he said. The Therapeutic Goods Administration is contravening Australia's international human rights obligations by failing to make sure ARC conforms to Council of Europe (COE) blood donor guidelines, Cain's federal challenge states.
COE guidelines say it may be necessary to ask donors if they have sex with men but does not rule out gay blood donors, said Rodney Croome, spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group. In Switzerland and Spain, gay and bisexual men can donate blood, he said. ARC's screening process does not inquire into heterosexuals' safe sex practices but rather focuses on the gender of the person with whom a donor has sex, said Croome.
The exclusion of gay male blood donors is in line with world standards, said ARC, and is based on their statistically higher incidence of some blood-borne diseases and the "window period" during which infections may still be incubating.
In 1998, Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commission found ARC's practice discriminatory but reasonable to ensure safe blood supplies. Croome said the policy is outdated and irrational now that HIV screening technology is so advanced.
Australian Associated Press
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.