Ban on gay blood donations justified

I was right behind the activist picket fences, raising my own signs in support of gay rights. I was marching right along in the fight for same sex marriage. But when the lights began to shine on a new issue, one that has been bubbling under the surface for the past few decades, I had to take a step back and assess the issue with an eye for the facts rather than a heart for the clear violation of equal rights.

Reluctantly, I have to agree with Madam Justice Catherine Aitkin’s decision to find Kyle Freeman guilty.

In the 188-page ruling delivered on Thursday, Toronto’s Kyle Freeman was ordered to pay $10, 000 to Canadian Blood Services for lying about his sexual history on a questionnaire used to pre-screen blood donors. Although he attempted to invoke the Charter’s equality provision in an attempt to challenge the legitimacy of the questionnaire, the verdict to prohibit males who have participated in sexual activity with other males has been upheld.

While others can protest, boycott and stomp their feet at the Canadian Blood Services for disallowing donations from gay men, it has to be understood that the Canadian Blood Services is taking blood donations from strangers. Although contentions have been raised in regards to samples being tested for diseases, the fact of the matter is that no HIV test is 100 per cent accurate during the window period, a three month time frame after the contraction of the ailment. What else can be done but eliminate high risk groups from the donating pool, gay men being one of them?

Before I am ransacked with cries of injustice, let’s peruse a few facts.

Actoronto.org has published that prior to 1995, 81 per cent of positive HIV tests in Canada among men were from the “men having sex with men” category. This proportion decreased to 49 per cent by 1999 but in 2000, the number had increased to 60 per cent. (actoronto.org)
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the “men having sex with men” category is 44 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than heterosexual men.

In the face of these troubling statistics, it can be concluded that the decision to remove this group from the donating pool is not to be seen as offensive, but rather a move to protect public safety. Although I do agree the deferral time period is questionable (as the questionnaire seeks gays to specify whether they have engaged in sexual activity since 1977, a time period that can be disputed with the recent improvements in HIV testing) I would have to agree that this decision to uphold the ban was the right one.

Discriminatory? Quite. Fair? Absolutely not. Justified? I would have to say so. The questionnaire is exclusionary, and the Canadian Blood Services makes no move to hide such a fact. Those who have travelled overseas to high risk areas or participated in a deviant sexual lifestyle and even born in certain African countries are all restricted from donating blood. Until HIV testing can be 100 per cent accurate, I wouldn’t say a gay man’s right to donate blood is a priority over the life of a hemophiliac who relies on blood transfusions to live. At the end of the day, in choosing to ban donations from gay men, CBS is remaining cautious in order to protect the Canadian blood supply. HIV/AIDS is not a gay disease, as perpetuated by many, but an illness that does hit the gay community with alarming amounts of lethality.

As Aitkin brought up, rightfully so, “There is no law or obligation that requires Canadians to be blood donors and Canadian Blood Services is under no obligation to receive a donation. Blood donation is a gift; it’s not a right.”

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