Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: CBS Should Make Blood-Donation Rules Fair and Just for Gay Men

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: CBS Should Make Blood-Donation Rules Fair and Just for Gay Men

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: CBS should make blood-donation rules fair and just for gay men

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Aug. 24:

Canada's sordid, tragic experience with blood-transfused diseases -- HIV and hepatitis, specifically -- has made the agency that collects blood overly cautious on who it will accept donations from. Its policy on how to treat potential donations from gay men is not based solely on the science of risk. If it were, it would have changed long ago.

As it is, the Canadian Blood Services effectively tells gay men "no thanks." Precisely, it declines donations from men who have had sex with men in the last five years. So, sexually active MSM (as they are referred to) need not offer the "gift of life."

A bag of blood is shown at a clinic in Montreal, Thursday, November 29, 2012. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

A bag of blood is shown at a clinic in Montreal, Thursday, November 29, 2012. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

While the quality of life for most gay men does not hinge on whether they can donate blood, it is affected by the CBS policy, contributing to the stigma those who are not straight contend with daily. That is why groups such as Pride Winnipeg are fighting for change and publicize events when supporters step in, give blood and ask people to think a little harder about why gays should be denied the same privilege.

The CBS's five-year policy, in all likelihood, will change within the year. Canada will likely see its blood-collection agency move to a one-year deferral for gay men, as have other countries. Science shows taking blood from MSM who have not been sexually active for 12 months does not increase the risk to the blood supply. So, if the "stakeholder" groups, such as patient advocacy organizations, support a shortened deferral, Health Canada will allow CBS to make the change.

But if you're young, healthy and gay, the new policy likely would mean little for you, as a potential donor. And it would be justifiable to consider moving it to, say, a six-month deferral: current tests reliably detect HIV, except if infection occurred one to two weeks before donating. …

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