Canada: Most Gays Ruled Out as Organ Donors
January 9, 2008
A Health Canada organ donor regulation that excludes sexually active gay men from being donors is "unreasonable," practically unenforceable, and reduces the already scarce supply of transplantable organs, a Toronto AIDS doctor says.
"What about a gay monogamous couple, [Health Canada] is not going to let them donate? It's ridiculous," said Dr. Philip Berger, head of family and community medicine at St. Michael's Hospital. "It's been known for 20 years that the risk factor is not in being gay [but] in risky sexual behavior."
Berger says "it's what the individual does in their sexual lives, whether gay or straight, [that] puts them at risk." "To exclude bona fide donors because they've had sex with another man ... would exclude a lot of people who are no risk at all. Zero risk."
The new rule, which took effect in December, merely formalizes the precautions used nationwide for at least 10 years and is closely based on blood donor restrictions, said Dr. Gary Levy, head of Canada's largest transplant program. "I personally believe someone who has been in a monogamous relationship for 30 years, regardless of the gender or their partner, is a safe situation," Levy said. He believes transplant doctors will lobby Health Canada to rethink the rule and instead emphasize high-risk behavior.
Transplant surgeons will still have final say as to which organs are good for use, Levy said. Many organs from gay men have been used after the retrieval agency cleared them of being a significant HIV risk, he said. But under the new rule, surgeons will have to sign a form acknowledging that they have authorized transplantation of an organ that would ordinarily be excluded.
Berger said current HIV screening can be used to confirm a donor's HIV status rapidly and with near certainty.
1.09.2008; Joseph Hall
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.