Kissing or nibbling another man’s ear is enough to ban gay men from donating blood for life, a Red Cross expert has claimed.
The blood supply agency has clung to AIDS myths dispelled more than 20 years ago to defend its blood ban in the Tasmanian anti-discrimination case brought by 25-year-old Michael Cain.
US professor Dr Paul Holland, a former blood source executive testifying for the Red Cross, claimed even digital penetration of the nose or ear would justify the lifetime ban his country imposes on gay men.
That would usually be sufficient to exchange fluid and qualify as sex, Dr Holland told the Tribunal. When asked if that included gay men who had done nothing more than kissing, Holland replied, Yes, sir, because they increase their chance of transmitting an infection such as HIV.
Holland’s testimony contradicts international safe sex messages. According to ACON guidelines kissing is safe because it does not involve semen, vaginal fluid or blood. Saliva, by itself, does not transmit HIV.
AFAO was also surprised by the testimony. “They are not in accord with the science,” AFAO executive director Don Baxter said.
The Red Cross’ lawyer also took a page out of the anti-gay Christian lobby’s strategy stating gay male monogamy was a myth.
The Tribunal has heard a flurry of statistics from the Red Cross based on a New Zealand focus group of 11 couples that appeared to show gay men have 10 times as many partners as heterosexual men.
It’s justifying its current gay blood ban policy using some of the grossest and most offensive myths and stereotypes around, gay activist Rodney Croome told Sydney Star Observer.
Witnesses opposed to the current ban have pointed out that safe sex was more common among gay men than heterosexual men.
Many of the samples in studies cited by the Red Cross are very small, recruited from men at high risk, and explicitly exclude men who practise safe sex in monogamous relationships -” they are not representative of all men who have sex with men, La Trobe Associate Professor Anne Mitchell said.
The hearings then turned to where blood supply dangers exist today, rather than during the early days of the HIV epidemic.
A document was produced showing the Red Cross has ignored recommendations from its own chief epidemiological adviser, Dr John Kaldor, to revise the current ban to include only unsafe homosexual activity. The service also ignored advice from the Australian Medical Association about high risk heterosexual groups.
Former senior government adviser Bill Bowtell said the growing epidemic in the Asia Pacific region posed a risk to the Australian blood supply if heterosexuals were not screened for unsafe sexual activity.
When you ask Australians a straightforward, honest question, you’re likely to get a straightforward, honest answer, Bowtell suggested.
Bioethicist Dr Scott Halpern said the risk of using blood older than 15 days, approximately 13 percent of the Australian supply, was more than 1000 times greater a risk of mortality than HIV infection stemming from unsafe male-to-male sex.
I think we’re talking about a one in 100 risk of death on the one hand with using old blood, and about a one in a million risk of HIV on the other -¦ much rarer than getting struck by lightning, Halpern said.
The hearings will continue until 29 August.