Australian Red Cross ignored advice from blood experts, lawyer claims

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The Australian Red Cross ignored the concerns of its chief medical advisor regarding gay blood donations, a tribunal hear today.

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal investigating the gay blood ban heard from the primary Red Cross witness, Dr Brenton Wylie, a member of the Red Cross management committee.

The case was initiated by would-be gay donor Michael Cain, who was barred from giving blood on the grounds of his sexuality.

During Dr Wylie’s cross examination, Mr Cain’s lawyer Peter Tree SC presented documents containing the advice of the Red Cross’ chief epidemiological advisor Dr John Kaldor.

According to these documents, Dr Kaldor advised the Red Cross in 2001:

“Based on current epidemiological evidence, there is no justification for excluding donors on the basis of oral sex.

“It would seem prudent to defer donors who have had male anal sex without a condom…for a donor who has had anal sex only with a condom, the risk is far lower.”

Mr Cain went on to suggest that, judging by the evidence from the documents, the Red Cross also ignored a request by the Australian Medical Association to “obtain views on high risk heterosexual relationships” in relation to blood donation.

Mr Cain then pointed out that Dr Wylie had previously claimed that gay and bisexual men were thousands of times more likely to have HIV than straight people, despite the fact that only 0.5% of Tasmanian gay and bisexual men are HIV-positive.

The tribunal continues tomorrow.