Gay blood donation campaigner Michael Cain is putting on a brave face after a disappointing loss at the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal which upheld the ban on gay blood donors last week.
After four-and-a-half years fighting the case against the Red Cross Blood Service, the Launceston man has vowed to continue his fight.
I feel empowered now. I have all this energy to keep it going … just because this is the end of the court case, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the campaign, Cain said.
The Tribunal ruled the Red Cross Blood Service’s refusal to allow Cain to give blood as a gay man was not discrimination and the Red Cross is bound by law to ensure the risk of unsafe blood is as low as possible.
The Tribunal ruled the Red Cross’ policy was reasonable and Cain’s proposal to allow low-risk men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) to donate not reliable given evidence before the tribunal it would increase the risk of HIV transmission.
The Tribunal, however, made points in Cain’s favour, asserting the current policy amounts to disadvantage that is real, a matter of substance and not trivial.
The Tribunal also stated evidence given by the Red Cross to prove MSM are at more risk because they are less monogamous was unfounded.
There has been quite a deal of attention given by the Red Cross to the practices within the MSM group, the Tribunal stated.
This attempt to apply data about the practices of some clearly unrepresentative cohorts within the MSM group to all members of the group, as a means of undermining the reliability and commitment of all male-to-male relationships lacks validity.
Cain told Sydney Star Observer he was determinded to produce missing evidence which shows MSM who engage in safe sex would not increase the risk of HIV to the blood supply.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said while disappointed at the decision, the case was a significant step forward.
We put a titanic effort into this case, four-and-a-half years of work, thousands of hours of hard slog. It’s disappointing not to get the outcome we wanted, but if you read the Tribunal’s decision you can see at least some positive consequences from the work we put in, he said.
A lot of the Red Cross’ claims about the supposedly higher risk associated with gay sex have been demolished. They’re dead and buried and the Tribunal accepts Michael’s basic case that some gay sex is safer than other gay sex and some gay men are safer than some heterosexuals who can donate.
Cain is calling on the Red Cross to conduct a trial of gay blood donation of its own. I’ll approach the Red Cross to do a trial study where they can take gay blood donations and test how feasible something like this would be and what the acutual risks are instead of hypothesising, he said.