A Tasmanian man who felt dirty and useless after the Red Cross barred him from giving blood is seeking to have the organisation’s 12-month ban on blood donations from gay men overturned.
In two complaints filed this week, 22-year-old Michael Cain argues the Australian Red Cross’s ban is discriminatory and is not needed to protect blood supplies from contamination.
Cain was blocked from donating blood in Launceston last October after he said in a questionnaire he had had sex with a man in the previous year.
I felt dirty. I felt useless and I felt angry as well, Cain told Sydney Star Observer.
Being told that you can’t help to save somebody else’s life on the chance that you could have HIV/ AIDS was very frustrating.
After seeking legal advice, Cain decided to lodge his case with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission and the national Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
He alleges the Red Cross’s blood donation policy is discriminatory under Tasmanian law and that it contravenes Australia’s international human rights obligations.
Ultimately we want the ban to be removed and we want every gay or bisexual man to be assessed at an individual level and not put into a group, Cain said.
The Australian Red Cross’s ban on blood from men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months has been in force nationally since 2000.
The organisation says the policy, which also applies to women who have had sex with a bisexual man, is based on international evidence of gay men being more at risk of contracting HIV.
Cain’s case follows controversy over blood donations from gay men in the United States.
Activists there have taken on the American Red Cross in recent months over its lifetime ban on blood from men who have sex with men.