#100BM Day 52
Dear Canadian Blood Services,
I donated blood today! It make me feel good (if occasionally very tired) to do so! My late mother was a long-time blood donor (until she was diagnosed with breast cancer) and I am glad that I am able to follow in her footsteps. I will continue to donate while I am able.
That having been said, what does not make me feel good is some of the criteria you use to decide whether my blood is safe for the general public.
Sure, asking me sixty questions, including whether I’ve worked with chimpanzees, or had CJD show up in my family, or been doing cocaine recently pretty much make sense. It definitely makes sense to ask if I’ve had a positive HIV/AIDS test because, yeah, that would not be pretty bad for the blood supply. And yet? I still wonder why, for example, a homosexual man can only donate blood if he’s been celibate for five years. Or, why, say, if I had safe sex with a bisexual guy who had sex with a man four years ago, I might be stricken from the list of viable donors.
Man-on-man action ≠ Insta-AIDS! Crazy, right?
Sure, AIDS hit the gay community particularly hard over the last 30-odd years, but it is absolutely not endemic to it. Funnily enough, a lot of gay men have always practised safe sex and/or are not HIV positive and/or get tested regularly and would be delighted to help out the greater good by making regular blood donations. It seems ridiculous to not allow, say, a theoretical exclusive gay, HIV- couple of a decade, or even half a decade, the opportunity to do so. The risk that you fear is virtual non-existent for huge swaths of men who dig getting it on with men.
I know that your policy is much more open than that in many countries, including the United States, and I hope you are working on a better system that considers different/other means of screening that are less blatantly discriminatory.
Every donation is tested for HIV as it is. Sure, often infection is not detectable for weeks/months, which means that system is not 100% foolproof, but neither are people. As House stated on virtually every episode of the show sharing that name, “Everybody lies”. Sure, whatever, fictional show, but, people being people, a self-administered Yes/No questionnaire doesn’t really seem any more of a guarantee than your HIV testing as it is. And I’m sure there are still well-meaning people whose blood is 100% safe do lie to get around some of your more arbitrary rules.
I’m not saying eliminate the health questionnaire, obviously, though I have always wondered what having a grandmother born in Central America has to do with anything, or why having lived in Europe during the 1980s is still such a threat, or why having sex with my pot* dealer 20+ years ago has to do with anything, but the questions could be better and the screening less exclusive and still provide a much needed service to Canadians across the country.
I hope that you are continuing to work on a better, fairer screening system, because your discriminatory policies continue to make me uneasy as a supporter, and donor, to Canadian Blood Services.