Jewish Gen Hospital Expert: Drop Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Published: May 27th 2010
in News » Local

Dr. Mark Wainberg
Pic: Montreal Jewish General Hospital

According to Drs. Mark Wainberg and Norbert Gilmore, a 27-year-old ban on gay men donating blood should be lifted.


The two doctors published a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Tuesday, which states that the ban on all “men who have sex with men” is hypocritical.


While the report still states that gay men who have multiple sex partners should be denied the right to donate, the doctors agree that those in long-term monogamous relationships pose very few dangers.


 “We clearly have a situation in which there are chronic blood shortages and we also have a situation in which gay men are totally discriminated against,” said Wainberg, head of the HIV program at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.


Wainberg stated that it makes no medical sense to allow promiscuous heterosexuals to donate blood while refusing monogamous gay men.


“Obviously we agree it’s very essential to protect the blood supply,” Dr. Wainberg told Shalom Life. “But easing up on the restrictions will not do anything to lessen the security of the blood supply. Obviously nobody wants more people in Canada to become HIV positive, but our proposal would alleviate some of the shortages we experience in Canada on a regular basis in terms of numbers of donors.”


According to Wainberg, the ban still exists because of pressure from the families of those infected with HIV decades ago. These individuals were sickened largely from the use of tainted blood products.


While Wainberg concedes that one must continue to be sympathetic to the victims of tainted blood products, he still asks: “How much time has to go by before we say, ‘hey, this is really no longer a danger’?”


“Today’s technologies make it almost impossible for HIV to slip through,” added Gilmore.


Under the current ban, gay men are placed on par with intravenous drug users and people who exchange sex for money; these groups all face permanent deferrals from donating blood.


The new policy, if put into place, would reduce this to a one-year deferral period from the last new sexual encounter.


“Our policies would eliminate some of the hypocrisy in the system,” said Dr. Wainberg. “For example, if I’m a 20 year old promiscuous college student, I am still able to donate blood. But if I’m a gay man in a lifelong, faithful relationship with just one other gay man, neither of us are able to give blood.”


Another surprising fact is that a middle-aged man who is married with kids, but who experimented with another man once when he was 18, is still excluded for life from donating blood, explained Dr. Wainberg.


Reducing the ban for gay men in monogamous, long-term relationships would considerably increase the blood donor pool, said Wainberg. In the United States, where a five-year deferral period has been considered, the estimated donation pool would increase by an incredible 71,000. 


Ron Vezina, however, spokesperson for Canadian Blood Services, said the journal piece adds no new scientific evidence to the issue.


Related articles: (HIV, aids, blood donation, gay men, blood shortage, Montreal, jewish general hospital)
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