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Gay man
challenges Australia’s blood donation ban

Gay man
challenges Australia’s blood donation ban

A gay man in Australia who was denied a chance to donate blood because he is gay has filed legal challenges to the Red Cross policy preventing gay men from serving as blood donors, reports the Australian Associated Press. Michael Cain, a 22-year-old Tasmania resident, says a Red Cross nurse told him he was barred from donating blood because he had sex with another man in the past year. He also claims the nurse referred to him and other gay men as "you people." Cain has filed discrimination charges with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission stating that the Red Cross policy unfairly singles out gay men.

"I know that I have safe sex," he told the Australian Associated Press. "It almost felt like I was being accused of being a dirty person."

Australian gay groups say the Red Cross policy barring sexually active gay men from donating blood is discriminatory because it automatically assumes gay men are an HIV risk. "Now we know that AIDS is not simply a gay disease; it's a disease anyone can catch," Rodney Croome of the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group told the Australian Associated Press, noting that many European countries, including Spain and Switzerland, allow gay men to donate blood. "It's really time for the Red Cross to change its policy and focus on whether donors have safe or unsafe sex rather than the gender of the person they have sex with."

U.S. blood-donation regulations in effect since the 1980s prohibit any gay or bisexual man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees U.S. blood donation policies, says the ban is needed because gay men are at a higher risk of HIV and hepatitis infection--and of possibly passing those diseases through donated blood. Even gay men who have received negative HIV antibody test results, are monogamous with a long-term partner, or who consistently practice safer sex are barred from donating blood in the United States. The U.S. branch of the Red Cross--the largest blood collector in the country--supports the ban on gay blood donors.

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