Thursday, January 27, 2011

Canada: Blood Agency Looking to Decrease Gay Blood Ban

This just in from the Toronto Star...

The federal blood agency says reducing the time men must wait before donating blood after homosexual activity would show the gay and bisexual community it is serious about change.
The Toronto Star reported Thursday that Canadian Blood Services believes a lifetime prohibition against accepting blood from men who have had sex with men at least once since 1977 is no longer justified and that it plans to ask Health Canada to relax the rules.
The agency is funding a $500,000 grant to research a new policy — which could mean changing the donor criteria to focus on specific high-risk sexual activities rather than orientation — but a spokeswoman said Thursday that it will not wait for those findings before approaching the federal government about shortening the deferral period.
“There’s got to be something we can do in the meantime,” said Lorna Tessier, director of public relations for Canadian Blood Services. She noted the grant has already been waiting for successful applicants since 2008.
The momentum for change followed an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision last September that upheld the current policy but added there was insufficient evidence to support a lifetime ban.
“We’ve always agreed with that, so maybe it’s time for us to say: . . . ‘What change can we bring about now?’ ” Tessier said, explaining enough information is readily available from other countries that have gone that route for the agency to ask Ottawa to shorten the deferral period while it researches bigger steps.
The agency has thought about doing this before, but shortening the deferral period was met with resistance by both patient recipient groups and the gay and bisexual community, Tessier said. Recipients wanted to err on the side of caution and the gay community noted that asking gay men to be celibate for five or 10 years was a de facto lifetime ban.
Both sides are more willing to engage this time around, Tessier said, with gay advocacy groups saying, “Well, it’s still not going to help us, but at least it’s a goodwill gesture. It’s a step in the right direction toward change.’ ”
Tessier did not have a timeline for determining the length of the new deferral period and submitting the proposal to Health Canada, but said the agency plans to “finalize its approach” by the end of the year.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Kyle Freeman, a gay man the Ontario court decision found committed negligent misrepresentation when he falsely donated blood as many as 18 times over a dozen years after having had sex with another man.
“These are nice sentiments, but will it really affect change?” Freeman said, pointing out that even if Canadian Blood Services comes through, the federal government—and maybe politics—will then come into play. “It’s nice to be abstract, but deeds speak.”
A spokesman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the government will evaluate any future submissions when the time comes.
“We’re going to wait and see what they recommend and then we will examine it and comment on it then,” said Tim Vail, her director of communications. “Other than that, anything else is just speculation and we’re just not going to go there.”
       Anyone who consistently reads this blog knows that I have dealt with this issue in the past.( I would encourage looking at that post as I have much better analysis). Though I do applaud the decision of the Blood Services to request that the Federal Government decrease the wait time for gay men to donate blood, it still differentiates between actions and orientation. The gay community is not upset that there is a ban per say, but it is upset that there is no legitimate reason for the ban to be in place. To prove my point, a heterosexual man who is having unprotected sex with a different partner every night can give blood, yet a homosexual man who has been in a monogamous relationship cannot. It should obviously be the other way around, since the heterosexual man is more of a threat to the blood supply than a homosexual one.

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