This is one thing that will never stop bothering me, until things change.
I keep hearing on the radio and in the news about the shortage of blood supplies all over Canada. It seems that people are not interested anymore in giving blood for a variety of reasons – in my opinion it is such a small sacrifice to make (oooh, a needle), and which can have a HUGE impact in someone’s life (literally).
Donating blood at least once is on my list of 35 things I want to accomplish before I turn 35. I’m not kidding, I actually have such a list. I actually was days way from going to donate blood with my best friend at the time – she would be there for support only, unable to donate blood as she is diabetic. That’s when, while doing research I discovered I was not able to donate blood; not because I am not healthy, not because I have any genetic or blood diseases, tattoos, or unsuitable blood in any other way. I am unable to donate blood simply because I am gay.
According to Canada’s blood donation policies, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 (the onset of AIDS), is banned from donating blood. Ever. No matter whether you have better sexual habits than other people. No matter if you had sex once in 1977 and haven’t since.
It’s not that I don’t understand their reasoning. It’s just that their ‘reasoning’ doesn’t make sense.
Under the Blood donation policy, a straight person who has had unprotected sex with someone who is confirmed to have an STD, is banned from donating blood too. After six months, however, if that person has changed his or her habits to use protection and has tested negative for any blood STDs, the individual will be able to try donating blood again.
If a person gets a tattoo or a piercing, they will also be unable to donate blood, based on toxins and possible infections that might arise from that. Again, this will only be for the next six months, after which the person will be able to donate blood again.
What about a woman who has had unprotected sex with a bisexual man, who in theory has just as much chance of contacting AIDS as a gay man having sex with that same man? The policy allows her to donate blood without any hiatus. Same goes for any straight individual whether or not they practice safe sex, as long as they are not aware that any of their many sexual partners might be infected, and no matter whether the individual has ever had a blood test or not. And if one of their partners is confirmed to have an STD but they practiced safe sex? That’s ok, Canadian Blood Services will take your blood!
Then comes me. Ok, at the time when I originally wanted to donate blood, I was sexually active and not in a stable relationship. However, I practiced safe sex and went for a blood test every 3 to 6 months (which is more than I can say for most straight people – or even gay people- i know). If the policy stated that anyone having sex with more than one partner in a specific period of time (say a year), whether safe or not, was unable to donate blood, I would have understood. But not being able to do so, despite my safe sexual habits, just because of my sexual orientation, doesn’t make sense.
And how about now. I have been in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for almost 3 years now. We both have had blood tests and know that we are healthy individuals, and we have a far lower chance from contacting any blood diseases than any straight individual with multiple sex partners. Yet, we are still not able to donate blood under the illogical, extremely anti-constitutional policy of the Canadian Blood Services. And we probably never will be, unless the people in charge put on a brain and realize that they are discriminating against an entire group of people who could highly benefit our diminishing blood resources.
I can guarantee that as soon as this illogical policy changes, I will donate blood. Until then, donating blood will remain uncrossed in my lists of 35 things to do before I am 35.
And everytime I hear in the radio that Canadian Blood Services is in dire need of blood donors, I will shake my head.
Click here to read the new controversial story that offset my rant.
This is the explanation of Canadian Blood Services for not allowing men who have had sex with other men (note they will not admit they are discriminating against gay men specifically) to donate blood:
Why do you not allow gay men the right to donate blood?
Canadian Blood Services’ policy indefinitely defers any man who has sex with another man, even once, since 1977. The policy in question does not apply specifically to gay men. This is one of numerous screening procedures which allow us to identify a variety of behaviours and activities known to increase risk to the safety of the blood supply.
The basic premise for our policy pertaining to men who have had sex with men is that the prevalence and incidence of HIV is much higher in males who have had sex with other males than it is in individuals having exclusively heterosexual sex. Statistics released by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2005 indicate that men who have sex with men represented 58 per cent of the HIV/AIDS cases in Canada. This number is up from 2002, when they represented 40 per cent; and in 1996, when they represented 30 per cent of new cases of HIV/AIDS in Canada.
While we do test all units of blood and testing is sophisticated, there still exists a brief period after the onset of a viral infection during which early signs of a virus cannot be detected. This period of time is known as the “window period”. However, the system is as safe as current testing and technology allows, combined with Canadian Blood Services’ stringent screening processes (e.g., donor questionnaire, deferral policies).
We continually review our policies and procedures in the face of changing science and technology and as such we are conducting a risk assessment of this issue. Any change in donor criteria would have to be considered safe from a scientific perspective and be approved by our regulator, Health Canada.