Steven has been happily married to his wife for over 10 years. What his wife doesn’t know, however, is that Steven is sexually active with a dozen other women. The one good thing, in all this, is Steven practices safer sex with condoms.
John, like Steven, has also been happily married for over 10 years; however, John is unlike Steven in that he is fully committed in a monogamous relationship. Yet, there’s one other way Steven and John differ: Canadian Blood Services will accept a donation of Steven’s blood, yet, they’ll actively ban John from donating blood.
You see, despite John’s monogamy and marriage, he is married to another man. John is in the category of, what Canadian Blood Services calls, MSM (men who have sex with men). Currently, even healthy men, who’ve been in monogamous relationships with another male for years, are banned from donating blood to Canadian Blood Services. Although Steven and John are fictitious, this scenario is truth for all the Stevens and Johns in Canada.
Science, not pressure from gay lobby groups, should determine whether Canadians can give blood. At the least, healthy men who have sex with men, who practice monogamy, should be exempt from the blood ban, just as healthy heterosexual men and women in monogamous relationships are exempt from the ban. More importantly, all blood donations collected by CBS are tested for not only the HIV/AIDS virus, but Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, HTLV virus, West Nile virus, and more. This means that blood from all eligible Canadian donors should be collectible.
Now, in all this, what’s in it for you? Imagine a room filled with 100 Canadians; only 3.5 of those 100 Canadians are eligible to donate 1 unit of blood, each. This is a frightening figure if you or a loved one is ever involved in a medical crisis. Hospitals are always in shortage of blood supplies. Canadians need to somehow raise the number of eligible donors, while keeping potential HIV infections from blood donations at an absolute minimum.
From the views of CBS, their reasoning is sound in that they are merely banning a group (the MSM group) known to have the highest risk for new HIV/AIDS infections (as supported by public health data collected from Canadians).
However, an interesting trend is on the rise: new HIV diagnoses among women are increasing. Yet, CBS does not actively ban women from donating. CBS’s current donor screening methods discriminate against even healthy men in monogamous relationships with other men, this is discrimination based on sexuality, not sexual behaviour. All at the expense of blood donations that can save Canadian lives, during a time where we simply can’t afford to turn away eligible blood donors. We are denying hospitals clean, healthy blood.
All promiscuous donors with multiple sexual partners, whether they be straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, etc., shouldn’t be allowed to donate blood, period. STDs don’t discriminate against sexuality: instead, they discriminate against dangerous sexual habits. Regardless of whether two penises are involved, or two vaginas, or a penis and a vagina, or some wicked multiple combination of the two, sexual habits determine HIV risks, not sexuality.
Keeping in mind that the number of Canadians who need blood donations show no signs of decreasing, we must increase the number of eligible donors, immediately. The best way to increase the number of eligible donors is to uplift the blood ban on men who have sex with men.
Fact: Every time you donate one unit of blood through Canadian Blood Services, you donate 450 mL (approximately the volume of a disposable, plastic water bottle). 2,000 units of blood are needed, daily, across Canadian hospitals. One unit of blood saves up to 3 Canadian lives.
Armed with these statistics, let’s revisit that room of 100 Canadians, where only 3.5 Canadians are each eligible to donate 1 unit of blood: convincing those 3.5 eligible blood donors to donate is a challenge in itself. But, let’s say we do find those 3.5 Canadians, and they decide to donate. Then, and only then, will hospitals receive their 3.5 units of blood. However, we’re still not out of the woods: on average, one hospital patient needs 4.6 blood units. This means that, even with the collective effort of 100 Canadians, a patient will still need 1.1 more blood units.
Donors are scarce in Canada.
Blood is scarce in Canada.
The purpose of this column is not to encourage you to picket Canadian Blood Services. By all means, if you’re an eligible donor, donate blood immediately, today. However, changes in CBS’s donor screening policies cannot happen without Canadians understanding that the ban on even healthy men who have sex with men is illogical.
Five years ago, my little sister was suffering excruciating stomach pains; she was rushed to the hospital and placed in urgent care. Within several hours, a senior surgeon was removing her close-to-rupturing appendix. Her successful appendectomy required 17 units of blood. That day, 17 Canadians unknowingly saved my sister’s life. Both she and I don’t care whether that blood came from men who have sex with women, or men who have sex with men, provided that the blood was both screened for HIV and deemed safe.
Disagreements with the opinions of this post are welcome. Comment freely.