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Photo courtesy of Erin Sparks from the Link

U.K.’s new blood donation policy isn’t progressive enough

MONTREAL (CUP)—ON SEPT. 8, the United Kingdom’s Health Department announced that, as of November, gay men will be allowed to give blood—if they have refrained from any form of sexual contact for an entire year. Although deemed progressive by some, this newly established concession is actually more ignorant than it is groundbreaking.

In light of the U.K.’s new stance, Canada may reconsider its own policy, as it is currently one of many countries that forbid gay men from donating blood at all. It’s great that the U.K. wants to be “progressive” and “tolerant,” but hopefully our country can realize that our mother country’s recent announcement is neither of the above. On the contrary, this “lightened” ban is more of a colossal slap in the face than a step in the right direction.

“Blood donation eligibility criteria should be based on individual behaviour, backed by advanced screening, not on sexuality,” wrote Nursing Times reporter Steve Ford.

Although it is crucial that blood donation agencies follow strict protocol that requires their donors to be tested for any medical, sexual, or drug-related blips, they shouldn’t assume that HIV is exclusively a homosexual disease.
Best Health magazine recently reported that, in a 2010 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Mark Wainberg, a prominent researcher in the field of HIV/AIDS, argued the ban is illegitimate. He wrote, “The risk of a false negative on an HIV test has been nearly eliminated since Canada’s blood system began using a highly sensitive nucleic acid test to screen blood.”

If health systems are able to thoroughly screen blood, why must gay men kiss their libidos goodbye for an entire year in the U.K.? More importantly, with the technological advances the world has seen, why wasn’t this ban abolished sooner?

The only real reason for these full or partial bans must be called what it is—flagrant discrimination.

Partially lifting the ban in the U.K. just isn’t good enough. The gay community is asking for complete equality—something it deserves. It is nonsensical to stereotype a group based on sexual orientation, depriving them of the fundamental right to donate clean blood.

Shame on the members of the U.K. Health Department. They shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back: What they’ve done wasn’t progressive. It was discriminatory. If they want to earn their kudos, they should abolish the ban, use the technology available to effectively screen blood, and stop hiding behind dated stereotypes. As for Canada, we should learn from the mistakes made across the pond, and make a change that actually moves us forward.

—Camille Chacra, the Link



Students share their view of Canada’s blood ban
IN LIGHT OF the recent change in U.K.’s ban on the use of blood donated by homosexual males, the Fulcrum asks: Should gay men have the right to donate blood in Canada?

“Yes, of course they should. Denying gay men the right to donate blood based on their higher statistics of HIV is … just silly and ludicrous.”

—Sam Crowe*

“Of course they should. I assume that any blood that is donated is tested for HIV before being given to patients anyway.”

—Shanna Stanley-Hasnain

“Of course.”

—Darrell Bartraw

“Hells no.”

—Alex Suth*

“The rule is left over from when HIV was considered a homosexual problem only. It’s just bigotry that we need to take off the books.”

—Eleni Armenakis

“I believe gay men should be allowed to donate blood. I feel that although the instances of HIV/AIDs are significantly higher in the gay population, the gay population is also a lot more cognisant of that fact and check themselves more frequently than their hetero counterparts.

Although I have had no concerns about my HIV status, I have gone to a sexual health clinic to get the test just to be sure, as is the case with a number of my gay friends. Whereas I don’t think any of my straight friends have ever attended a sexual health clinic.

I think that the safety of our blood supply rests in improved screening and detection techniques. There is no population that is unaffected by HIV/AIDS, and as such, you can never protect our blood supply by excluding target groups from donating.”

—Andrew Wing

*Name has been changed.