Students protest against gay blood donor ban

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Student activists are putting pressure on the Canadian Blood Services to put a stop to its blood donor ban on sexually active gay men, despite the company having recently said it would not lift the ban.

On their donation form, the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) bar any man who has had sex with another man since 1977, even if only once.

The Canadian Federation of Students began to put pressure on CBS last year and the cause has been taken up by many universities across the country.

Amanda Aziz, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students told

“Our issue with the ban is that it is based on personal individual characteristics, and not on behaviour.

Posters against the ban were put up to raise awareness as, according to Aziz, not many students or Canadians even knew the ban existed.

After much lobbying against CBS and Health Canada, the federation claims it has never received a plausible reason for the ban: “The only reason that we have received from CBS is that the research doesn’t support the rationale that gay men are not a larger risk than non-gay men.

“However, after putting pressure on them and participating in many consultations, it has become clear that the problem is that there is a gap in CBS’ research (some have even admitted that the policy is outdated).

“Representatives of CBS have admitted this in many meetings, and have committed to additional research to be undertaken with our organisation.

“We believe strongly that the research will show that this policy is outdated and discriminatory for no good reason,” says Aziz.

As a precaution, CBS offers potential blood donors a brochure which details the risks of HIV and other diseases that would make someone not suitable for blood donation. The brochure, available on the agency website, says the following:

“There are certain things that people do that put them at risk for getting and spreading the HIV virus. You are at risk if:

You are a male who has had sex with another male, since 1977.”

However, this list does not warn people that they are at risk when having unprotected sex.

“I think this fact proves our point that screening men who have had sex with men since 1977 is arbitrary and not necessary for the safety of the blood supply,” said Aziz.

“Not listing the lack of condom use as a risk is exactly the point we are trying to make when raising this issue with both CBS and the general public, and one we hope will resonate with people when thinking about why this policy needs to be changed.”

The CBS were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

The UK Blood Transfusion Service also bars men who have had sex with other men from donating blood, even if they used a condom. A statement on their website says: “It is specific behaviours, rather than being gay, which places gay men at increased risk of HIV infection.

“Safer sex will keep most gay men free from infection, however research shows that allowing gay men as a group to donate blood would increase the risk of HIV infected blood entering the blood supply.

“Abolishing the rule for gay men would increase the risk of HIV infected donations entering the blood supply in England by about five times, and changing the rule to allow gay men to donate one year after they last had sex with another man would increase the risk by 60 per cent.”