Following the recent change in the Canadian Blood Services blood deferral period for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men from 12 to 3 months, Dr’s Nathan Lachowsky and Daniel Grace were featured in an article in the Georgia Straight. Their co-authored op-ed discussed why this change, while in the right direction, is not sufficient. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec should be screening applicants based on risk of infection, not sexual orientation. Science instead of sexual orientation. Evidence versus labels. The gay men we interviewed in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal overwhelmingly favoured the move to an evidence-based approach to blood donation.
Under the new donation rules, a straight man with dozens of sexual partners can give blood with no questions asked. A gay man in a monogamous relationship with one sexual partner cannot donate blood if he’s had sex with his partner in the past three months. Men who have sex with men may not be engaging in activities with any chance of HIV transmission. They continue to bear the added insult of being told they’re unfit to donate following any intimate contact with another man. For blood donation, “sex” is considered oral, vaginal, and anal sex.
When we rely on sexual orientation to make policy decisions instead of activities that lead to HIV transmission, everyone loses. Stigma persists. The new regulations are out of touch with the science of HIV transmission.
Thirty years ago, our understanding of HIV was nowhere near where it is today. Then, a blanket ban on gay men’s blood may have made sense. Today, with advances in science, research, and our understanding of HIV transmission, we know better.
You can read the full piece on the Georgia Straight.
June 28th, 2019