In this day and age it’s, shocking and unreal to hear that any men who have sex with men (MSM) cannot donate blood due to the risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This made since in the past, but now we have the technology to test for HIV quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, the policy has changed, making the deferral time from a lifetime to five years, however; it still needs to be changed.
We currently have the technology to test if a person has HIV within days of attracting the infection, which is amazing to think of. With tests such as the Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) blood screeners can gather 512 units of blood and look for small fragments of HIV RNA and have accurate results within 12 days of infection, and on an individual level can be detected in five days (CFS-FCEE, 2015).
Up until 2013, MSM could not donate their blood at a Canadian Blood Services (CBS) location. However, with all this new technology the rejection time has changed in most countries such as in Australia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan and more; to one year whereas in Canada, it’s five years (Wikipedia, 2015). People have called this ban discriminatory, not science based, dangerous, a backward and stigmatizing practice, intrinsically abhorrent to the fundamental Canadian values of equality, and even to homophobic (Hopper, 2015). At CBS if you say that you have had sex with another man in the past five years they will automatically reject your blood and send you out the door. With this policy, MSM is lumped in with “… prostitutes, johns and intravenous drug users” (Hopper, 2015). Yes, the policy has changed, but CBS and other blood banks are still far off from having fair laws. As Dr. Dana Devine, VP of Medical, Scientific, and Research Affairs at CBS said:
We recognize that many people will feel that this change does not go far enough, but given the history of the blood system in Canada, we see this as a first and prudent step forward on this policy. It’s the right thing to do and we are committed to regular review of this policy as additional data emerge and new technologies are implemented (CFS-FCEE, 2015).
I feel that this is true, this is the first step, but CBS could take more steps. In the world, every country that has changed their deferral time has changed it to one year and ours is at five years. Furthermore, I would think CBS and other blood banks would take people’s blood and do heavy tests on them if they were to identify as MSM, because, at this point in time there is a blood shortage and MSM could potentially help with this shortage.
In the year 2015, a MSM needs to withhold sex with another man for five years if they want to donate their blood. Which is insane considering that the technology that we have today is so advanced. Additionally, there is a shortage of blood right now and most places in the world have a condensed deferral time whereas, here in Canada we have a longer time.
As of August 15th, 2016, the deferral time has been moved from five years down to one year!References
CFS-FCEE,. (2015). End the Blood Ban – CFS-FCEE. Retrieved 18 March 2015, from http://cfs-fcee.ca/take-action/end-the-blood-ban/
Hopper, T. (2015). Tristin Hopper: Canadian Blood Services’ gay blood ban is brutally inexact, but still necessary. National Post. Retrieved 18 March 2015, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/02/tristin-hopper-canadian-blood-services-gay-blood-ban-is-
Wikipedia,. (2015). Men who have sex with men blood donor controversy. Retrieved 18 March 2015, from