Protest against blood ban

Protest against blood ban

Gay activists and allies used the International AIDS Society conference this week as a backdrop to protest the Australian Red Cross Blood Service ban on sexually active gay men from donating blood.

One of the protesters, Michael Cain, is still waiting for the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to rule on his 2005 complaint against the ban. The final hearing is expected in May 2008.

I understand the relevance of what [the ARCBS] is trying to do, or was trying to do in the 1980s, but I think that policy is now outdated, Cain said.

Most men who have sex with men won’t catch HIV. All the ban does is stigmatise gay men as dirty.

The extensive list of circumstances under which the ARCBS will refuse an individual from donating blood was widely publicised this year with a national media campaign -“ but left out the ban on men who have had sex with men.

Cain argued for a new policy that screens donors for unsafe sex rather than gay sex, as used in Spain and Italy, which he said had dramatically reduced levels of HIV transmission through blood transfusion.

A spokeswoman for the ARCBS said they could not comment while legal proceedings were continuing in Tasmania.

The protest also comes as gay men were blamed for a recent national surge in new HIV infections. Professor John Kaldor from the National Center in HIV Epidemiology told AAP the rise was mostly from unsafe sexual activity by gay men.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle was among those supporting Cain and the repeal of the gay ban.

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