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Author Topic: Canadian Blood Agency Studies Lifting Ban on Gay Donors  (Read 1612 times)

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Offline 411

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Canadian Blood Agency Studies Lifting Ban on Gay Donors
« on: March 08, 2008, 10:16:16 PM »
If this study reveals the risk to be acceptable I wonder if other countries that currently ban gay donations will reconsider their position.

Canadian Blood Services is conducting research to determine whether it should lift its total ban on blood donations from gay men.

The not-for-profit organization, which manages most of Canada's blood supply, is doing a series of studies on the issue, said Dr. Mindy Goldman, the executive responsible for donors.

Canadian Blood Services' current policy says it will reject blood from any man "if he has had sex with another male, even once, since 1977."

The organization has completed a risk assessment, will do an anonymous survey of more than 40,000 donors this year, and is providing money for three academic studies of donations, she said.

Blood services directors are scheduled to get a preliminary report on the results in early 2009.

Canadian Blood Services, working with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, will ask academic researchers to look into:

* How blood collection agencies should balance risks when considering donations from certain groups because of the risk of blood-borne diseases.
* Policies that could differentiate between the high-risk and low-risk sectors of the gay community.
* Emerging risks in certain populations, not necessarily gay.

Most of the research focuses on the high-risk sector of the gay community, but "we're interested in the low-risk side," Goldman said. There is not much research into donations from gay men in stable, monagamous relationships, she said.

The blood agency conducted an independent risk assessment of gay donors through the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health in Ottawa last year.

The study said there is a higher risk associated with changing the rules to allow gays who have not had sex for a year to donate, but the evidence for allowing donations from gay men who have not had sex for five years may "provisionally pass the risk hurdle." The study suggests the five-year option should be discussed.

Canadian Blood Services is also working on an anonymous survey that would test attitudes to new rules. As an example of the type of change being considered, Italy screens gay donors by asking if they have had a new partner or unprotected sex in the past year.

"This is one of the alternative ways to screen" and the donors survey might explore that, Goldman said. Agency pushed to change rules

The blood agency is under pressure to change its criteria to allow gay donors.

On Thursday, doctors Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, and Norbert Gilmore, also of McGill, said sophisticated tests are now available to ensure that blood donations do not contain AIDS.

"There's no doubt the blood agencies may have been correct in denying gay men the right to donate blood when the policy was first instituted, about 25 or 30 years ago, but the reality is the tests have improved significantly," Wainberg said.

Some Canadian university groups have spoken out against what they say are outdated and discriminatory screening practices for blood donors.

Canadian Blood Services collects blood for all of Canada except Quebec. The agency has more than 4,000 staff members, 17,000 volunteers and an operating budget of more than $900 million. It is funded by the provinces and territories.


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