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International News

Canada: Lift Ban on Gay Blood Donations Say HIV Experts

March 7, 2008

Despite appeals Thursday from two prominent Montreal HIV/AIDS experts, officials from Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec upheld a lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM).

Mark Wainberg and Norbert Gilmore of the McGill University AIDS Center urged the agencies to follow the lead of Australia, which has lifted its lifetime ban on donations by gay men. Australian MSM can donate blood provided they have abstained from male-to-male sex for at least 12 months. After donation, the blood is screened for HIV, syphilis, and other viruses. According to the Australian Red Cross, if a gay man had sex within 12 months, an HIV infection could be missed in the post-donation screening; after that period, however, testing would conclusively detect the virus.

The nucleic acid test now used to detect HIV in donated blood is 10,000 times more sensitive than the serological tests used in the 1980s, when the ban went into effect, said Wainberg.

"The tests have moved forward, but the policies of Hema-Quebec and the Canadian Blood Services are in a time warp circa 1983," Wainberg said at a news conference at the start of the sixth annual Quebec HIV symposium. "These current policies discriminate unfairly against gay men."

Wainberg cited a study that found lifting the ban could result in a single unit of contaminated blood being introduced into the Canadian blood supply every 18 years. Meanwhile, it would allow for an additional 136,000 donations each year, Gilmore said.

Back to other news for March 2008

Adapted from:
Edmonton Journal
03.07.2008; Montreal Gazette; Canwest News Service

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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.
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