Opinions

When is your blood better than my blood?

SAIT student Stephanie Zitkus winces as she takes the needle for her first-ever blood donation at the Canadian Blood Services drive on campus in the fall. Andrew Crossett photo

Male donors: have you had sex with a man – even once – since 1977?
If you answered yes, then congratulations: you will never give blood.
This question is one of many on the Record of Donation form, the questionnaire potential donors fill out when giving blood.
But it’s also the single most controversial question on the questionnaire.
The argument is that homosexual males are statistically more likely to carry the AIDS virus or be HIV-positive. Both of these illnesses are blood borne.
While studies like the one conducted by AVERT International HIV and AIDS Charity in 2007 support that assessment, Canadian Blood Services and the federal government have encountered increasingly strong opposition to what many consider a homophobic policy.
Many have tried to fight the policy; all have failed.
Kyle Freeman, a homosexual who has had sex with a male since 1977, was the latest to try. He lied on the Record of Donation four times between 1998 and 2002, and 18 more times between 1990 and 1999.
After a series of lawsuits between Freeman and Canadian Blood Services, Freeman ended up being fined $10,000 and was heavily demonized by media and opposing lawyers.
But why?
Like a great many gay men, Freeman has tested negative for both AIDS and HIV.
In fact, according to AVERT’s website, the percentage of AIDS infections attributed to gay men has fallen from over 75 per cent to 35 between 1994 and 2005. Conversely, the percentage of AIDS cases attributed to heterosexuals has increased from 10 to 35 per cent in the same time period.
If straight and gay men are equally likely to have AIDS, why are we still preventing gay men from giving blood?
The policy started in the early ‘80s after infected blood and plasma given to thousands of Canadians AIDS and HIV left many blood recipients both wary and bitter.
But that was then and this is now. Advanced screening procedures and technological developments are in place to ensure such a terrible thing won’t happen again.
It’s time for Canadians to move into the 21st century. We were among the first to legalize gay marriage, so why not take another step forward and abolish such an outlandish and offensive policy?

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