Rodney Croome mounts a very sensible appeal to the Red Cross to review its policies banning gay people from donating blood. Fundamentally, they are based on prejudice and myth rather than evidence:
The policy banning all sexually-active gay and bisexual men from blood donation was put in place at a time when we knew little about how HIV is transferred.
A quarter of a century later, we know that safe sex is an effective barrier to HIV. We also know that heterosexual people who have unsafe sex with multiple partners are at higher risk of HIV infection than gay men who do not.
In short, we know HIV is passed on through unsafe sex, not gay sex.
In other words, we’re excluding desperately needed good blood for no good reason and, to make matters worse, we’re apparently not actually tackling the most high-risk sources properly.
The other fairly disturbing aspect was how the Red Cross had fought to maintain its ban in the face of strong evidence that it was counterproductive:
It was precisely this myth that lawyers for the Red Cross appealed to when they declared during the Tasmanian case that gay monogamy is a myth, that all gay men are at high risk of HIV, and, to prove their point, deployed research focused specifically on a minority of high-risk gay men.
Amazingly, some gay men accept this stereotyping, although it is virtually the same as the now largely-forgotten stereotypes of black and Jewish men as sexually unrestrained health risks.
We know the myth is wrong. Wide-scale studies of sexuality in contemporary Australia have found roughly equivalent levels of monogamy in same and opposite-sex couples.
Fortunately, there will now be an independent review of the policy, which will hopefully lead to this fairly vital matter being determined on the evidence rather than damaging stereotypes and vacuous prejudice.
Because, even if you don’t care about equality for gay people, in a world where we are constantly short of blood donors, this is one area where homopobic prejudice actively hurts all of us.
ELSEWHERE: A roman catholic school fires lesbian for getting married (why are they so anti-marriage?) and Rodney’s expectations of what will happen in the next parliament in regards to the progression towards Australian marriage equality.
UPDATE: Clearly, to preserve the blood supply, we must ban a new high-risk group: English old people.