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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Australia's gay blood donor dilemma

Posted in: HIV
By Craig Young - 16th January 2010

In December's DNA magazine, we hear from the other side of the Tasman about their quandaries over the gay blood transfusion ban and divided LGBT opinions on the issue.

On one side of the debate is indefatigable Tasmanian Rodney Croome and his Tasmanian Lesbian and Gay Rights Group. They were approached by a young Tasmanian gay man, Michael Caine, who had approached the Australian Red Cross and volunteered to donate blood, but had been refused permission to do so. According to the Australian Red Cross policy on gay men and blood transfusion, they can only donate blood one year after they have last had sexual activity and must not have had sexual partners until that point.

Rodney and the TLGRG assisted Michael in this context, and they took a case to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. In the end, the TADT ruled that in this instance, there was no case of bona fide discrimination, and that the Australian Red Cross' policy was justified due to the risk to the blood supply if the ban was relaxed. To Rodney and TLGRG, this is faulty reason. Surely it is unsafe sex that leads to HIV, so any ban should be exercised against those who regularly have unsafe sexual practices, straight or gay.

However, on the basis of harm reduction, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations agrees with the Red Cross. Blood supply safety is paramount in this context, and, unfortunately, current HIV statistics show that over one thousand new HIV cases were diagnosed in 2007. Moreover, sixty eight per cent of those who occurred in the context of sex between men. Moreover, Australia's blood donor ban isn't as severe as that in New Zealand, where donor bans extend to five years after last incident of sex between men and North America, where the ban extends to thirty two years, or the United Kingdom, where the ban extends for the duration of one's life.

Despite the unsuccessful conclusion to the case, our own Rainbow Wellington has contacted Rodney and TLGRG in its ongoing campaign to overturn our own blanket ban on gay blood donation. For the sake of convenience, I've reproduced the links from their December 2009 newsletter below. The debate continues...



Kristian Gagliardo: "Bad Blood?" DNA 119 (December 2009): 92-93:

TGLRG Submission:

Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Decision:


Red Cross Australia:

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations:

Craig Young - 16th January 2010

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