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Canada: Lift Blood Donation Ban for Some Gay Men -- Doctors

May 26, 2010

It is time to relax the 27-year prohibition against blood donation by gay men, says a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"We clearly have a situation in which there are chronic blood shortages, and we also have a situation in which gay men are totally discriminated against," said Dr. Mark Wainberg, chief of the HIV unit at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, and the article's lead author.

The report says that gay men in long-term monogamous relationships pose little risk to the blood supply. Testing by Canadian Blood Services on every unit collected has virtually eliminated the risk that HIV-positive blood would go undetected, it says.

However, Canadian Blood Services spokesman Ron Vezina responded that the journal article adds no new evidence to the question of the donation ban. Any alteration of the organization's policy would come after a review of data from countries in which the ban has been lifted, he said.

"We're looking forward to when that data comes because we don't think Canadians want to be guinea pigs. We think they want us to make changes that are based on empirical evidence and science," Vezina said.

The ban's chief supporters today include members of the hemophilia community, Wainberg said. In years past, HIV-tainted blood products infected many hemophiliacs.

While saying gay men with multiple sex partners should still be barred from donating blood, the authors proposed that the ban be reduced for monogamous men to one year from the last new sexual encounter.

The article, "Reconsidering the Lifetime Deferral of Blood Donation by Men Who Have Sex With Men," was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (2010; doi: 10.1503/cmaj.091476).

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Excerpted from:
Toronto Star

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