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Australia court rules Red Cross not required to accept blood from homosexual donors

[JURIST] A Tasmanian anti-discrimination court Wednesday upheld [decision text] an Australian Red Cross [organization website] policy [text] to refuse blood donations from sexually active homosexual males. Petitioner Michael Cain tried to donate blood in 2004 but his offer was refused after he affirmatively answered an inquiry into whether he "had male-to-male sex" in the past 12 months. Cain challenged the policy before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal [official website], claiming that the Red Cross discriminated against him as a homosexual and in regards to his lawful sexual activity. The Red Cross maintained that homosexual sex is grounds for deferral because of the risk of an undiagnosed HIV infection. Cain argued that the risk of HIV transmission does not lie with homosexual sex but rather with unsafe sexual practices and that homosexual men in stable, monogamous relationships who practice safe sex should be allowed to donate. The tribunal held that Cain's complaint was unsubstantiated and that the conduct of the Red Cross did not amount to direct or indirect discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1998 [text].

Last year, Canadian prosecutors dropped charges [JURIST report] against former Canadian Red Cross national medical director Dr. Roger Perrault, who had been implicated in Canada's tainted blood scandal [CBC backgrounder]. The charges were related to the use of tainted blood products by the Canadian Red Cross in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, a public health disaster that infected more than 20,000 people with hepatitis C and more than 1,000 people with HIV. Perrault and three other defendants were acquitted [JURIST report] in October 2007 of charges associated with distributing the tainted blood.

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