A final day of evidence was heard in the case challenging the Australian Red Cross Blood Service ban on gay blood donation last Friday.

Evidence was presented to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in the case brought by Launceston man Michael Cain, challenging the amount of HIV risk associated with the gay population.

US epidemiologist and bio-statistician Dr Scott Halpern challenged calculations presented by Australian epidemiologist and former Red Cross advisor, Professor John Kaldor.

Halpern said Kaldor’s evidence had significantly over-estimated the prevalence of HIV in the gay community and failed to distinguish risk with those in multiple as opposed to monogamous relationships.

The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group has dismissed Kaldor’s previous evidence that even low-risk gay men are still at higher risk than high-risk heterosexuals.

Kaldor told the hearing in early October the risk was associated with the prevalence of HIV in sexual partners, and the prevalence in gay men is of the order of 100-fold or more. Halpern has contested this, saying it is likely there are certain groups of heterosexual men whose risk of transmitting HIV via blood donation is at least as high as the risk among certain groups of men who have sex with men.

TGLRG spokesman Rodney Croome said the evidence is crucial to proving Cain’s case.

Closing submissions on the medical aspects of the case begin this Friday.

Red Cross collects money and criticism


In the same week that the gay blood ban case hears final evidence in Tasmania, Red Cross volunteers have been spotted along Oxford St spruiking for donations.

This has prompted several Sydney Star Observer readers to call and complain.

When I saw the shirts with the big crosses on them I was shocked, to be honest, that they would chose to collect money along Oxford St. It seemed to be in poor taste, said Lawrence Gibbons, the openly gay publisher from the Alternative Media Group and Darlinghurst resident.

I understand that it’s a free country but that also means that I am free to make my objections known as well,Gibbons asked the two female volunteers present last Thursday if they thought it was an appropriate position, before asking for contact details for a supervisor .

I assume that it’s mainly out of ignorance that they’ve set up on Oxford St, but it is a very poor marketing decision. Most people would be aware of the case that’s going on at the moment, but my concern is that there might be some in the community who aren’t aware, who are being encouraged to donate money to an organisation which actively discriminates against them.

Meanwhile, the case in Tasmania continued this week with a US epidemiologist challenging the numbers presented by Australian epidemiologist Professor John Kaldor, saying that they over-estimated the prevalence of HIV in the gay community.

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