OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Canadian Blood Services

Canada Mulls Ending Gay Blood Ban

September 14th, 2011

A man hauls a large bucket of blood.

Hot on the heels of the United Kingdom, which ended their gay blood donor ban in favour of a one year deferral last week, Canadian Blood Services is now mulling a similar change.

Canada’s permanent deferral on blood donations from men who have had sex with another man—even once—has never been scientifically sound; on top of that, the ban has been increasingly difficult to defend as more and more countries shed the practice. CBS has gone through several revisitations of the issue, but they always ended up being more theatrics than science, opting for the status quo. Somehow, though, I think this time will be different. Heck, even Russia, which is pretty darn anti-gay, has ended their lifetime ban on gay donors.

The identically cautious adoption of a one-year deferral is based on the rationale that particularly dangerous contaminants, such as HIV and hepatitis B, are undetectable for a period of time. Since all blood donations are tested for blood-borne contaminants, a period of a few months is really all that’s necessary, but donor clinics want to be especially vigilant, so a 12 month buffer makes sense.

And yet, I still find this change problematic.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, the problem isn’t the length of the ban (although forever was clearly a bit excessive), but rather the question that triggers it. This question essentially singles out sexual orientation instead of sexual behavior, treating many safe donors as risky, and many risky donors as safe. Monogamous gay couples, for example, are still effectively banned by the questionnaire, while a straight man that has unprotected sex with hundreds of partners is treated like an ideal donor, despite being a far greater risk.

This problem shouldn’t be difficult to resolve. The question could be replaced with something along the lines of: “Have you had more than one sexual partner in the last year?” followed by “Has your sexual partner had more than one sexual partner in the last year?” Answering yes to either could trigger the deferral without singling out sexual orientation and would likely even improve the quality of the blood supply by catching risky straight donors in addition to gay ones.

But, hey, these things are slow, so I’ll take ending the ban as a baby step in the right direction. Kinda.

New Gay Blood Ban Case Heads To Court

April 1st, 2011

First, a quick announcement: Since the launch of this site in 2006, you’ve no doubt noticed a gradual change in my illustration style. While I’ve been pleased with the artistic direction that my illustrations have taken over the past several years, I feel that they have lost a certain charm of the originals. That is why, starting today, I am returning to—and keeping—my original illustration style. Additionally, to keep the site’s look consistent, I will be removing and re-drawing all of my illustrations from the last few years. This is a pretty exciting project, so I hope you’re as pleased as I am!

Update, April 2: For anyone who doesn’t like to check calendars on a regular basis: Yes, this announcement—and the accompanying terrible illustration—was an April Fools joke. The rest of the post is real though, so good luck to Mr. Lomaga with his blood ban case!

A terrible illustration.

If you’re a gay man in Canada and have had sex even once since 1977, you are permanently banned from donating blood in the country. If you’re surprised by this, you likely haven’t tried donating blood for a very, very long time. This policy has been on the books for about thirty years now, despite having organisations like the Red Cross come out against it.

Nonetheless, Canadian Blood Services has rested stubbornly with the policy. The organisation even launched a successful court case against Kyle Freeman, a gay man, for having donated blood against the organisation’s policy two years ago. While that case ultimately ruled in favour of CBS because they were not a government organisation and therefore not subject to Canada’s charter of rights, the policy is about to be tested again.

Adrian Lomaga, a Montréal student, is challenging the gay blood ban policy of Héma-Québec (which is more likely to be ruled as a government organisation) on April 4. In response, Héma-Québec is suing Health Canada (clearly a government organisation), saying that if they lose this case, it’s the fault of their parent organisation for forcing the policy on them.

I’ve always been confused by the gay blood ban. Defining the exclusion group as haphazardly as “gay men” is likely considerably more harmful to the blood supply than other proposed alternatives. For one, it perpetuates the myth that all gay men have tainted blood. On top of that, it fails to catch heterosexuals who may engage in far riskier sexual practices than a monogamous gay man. A wiser system would shift the focus on the number of partners a donor has, as well as whether or not the donor engages in risky sexual practices—such as not using condoms. HIV and other blood-borne infectants don’t care about the gender of their host, after all.

So, good luck to Adrian Lomaga! May you soon have large needles inserted into your veins, and your blood removed in large quantities!

Gay Blood Ban Continues With No Researchers

February 7th, 2011

Nosferatu hesitates over a sleeping gay couple.

Canadian Blood Services continues to ban blood donations from gay males, permanently barring all men who have had sex with another man—even once—since 1977. It’s a dumb policy, and one that helps propagate the myth that all gay men are sexually promiscuous and inherently dangerous to the blood supply.

That could change, though; many other countries implement a questionnaire that bases their bans on risky sexual practices, such as having multiple partners and unprotected sex, rather than simple sexual orientation. It makes a lot of sense, particularly since it would also catch tainted blood from heterosexuals—a group which currently has barely any restrictions in Canada. But so far CBS isn’t budging, citing a need for research.

That research, incidentally, should be underway—but it’s not. CBS set aside $500,000 in research grants two years ago to help fund studies into implementing a different policy, but not one scientist has applied for the funding yet.

So, what’s the deal, medical researchers? I know it’s competitive to find funding for scientific research, so it can’t be that you guys don’t want it. Surely this is just a matter of poor advertising for the grant.

Of course, if no one else wants the money, I have my M.Sc.

It’s in a completely unrelated field of science, mind you, but I’m sure I could wing it. Any science not based in math is just improvisation anyway. So, yeah, call me?

Court Upholds Gay Blood Ban

September 13th, 2010

CBS spokesperson says that blood contaminants are highest in donors over the age of 1, and are therefore deferred.

An Ontario court has ruled that Kyle Freeman, a gay man who was sued by Canadian Blood Services for lying on his blood donation questionnaire, was negligent and does not have the right to donate blood. Freeman indicated on his form, untruthfully, that he had not had sex with other men because answering honestly would have deferred him as a donor for life. CBS has a long-standing policy on permanently banning blood donations from any man who has had sex with another man—even once—since 1979.

I’ve been a longtime critic of this policy, but have always respected the letter of it, even if it is deeply flawed. Canadian Blood Services does, indeed, have the right to refuse donations from whomever they choose. No individual, straight or gay, has to have their blood donations accepted by CBS. In this sense, the Kyle Freeman case was an unfortunate way for this issue to have reached the courts; his claim was based on a right that doesn’t really exist. That said, CBS must stop defending its policy as it stands.

My beef with the policy isn’t that I believe I have some inalienable right to donate blood, it’s that the policy focuses on the wrong traits, ignoring the real risks in demographics and instead overtly spreading the myth that gay men are such an inherent danger that having sex with one—even once, since 1979—threatens the quality of Canada’s blood supply.

The flaw is easy to illustrate. Canada’s fastest growing HIV demographic is young, heterosexual women, who already make up 25% of all HIV infections in the country. Yet they aren’t deferred from donating blood. Nor should they be. Why assume, after all, that everyone in the YHW community is a risk when most aren’t? Yet this is precisely the logic used behind CBS’s gay blood ban.

CBS’s policy has got to be replaced by one that emphasizes unprotected sex and the number of sexual partners of a donor, regardless of their gender or the genders of the people they have sex with. Monogamous gay men and those that practice safe sex with limited partners are not a risk to the blood supply, something the American Red Cross has repeatedly noted. CBS already screens every donor with more than acceptable accuracy. That they continue to stand by a policy that focuses on sexual orientation instead of risky sexual practices reinforces the stereotype of the promiscuous gay male and, worse, lends a reputation behind that stereotype that harms the entire gay community.

I have no idea what consequences Ontario’s ruling will have on the movement to adopt a more effective screening questionnaire, but it certainly hasn’t given CBS the kick it needs to reflect on its own policy and to listen to the doctors and medical organisations that oppose it.

Canada May Allow Gay Blood Donors

May 26th, 2010

A group of doctors has come forward in support of lifting Canadian Blood Services’ permanent deferral of gay men donating blood. In a medical paper published in yesterday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, several doctors submitted that the ban is unscientific, harmful and must be reconsidered. A step in the right direction, if Canadian Blood Services takes notice.

In Canada, all potential blood donors must fill out a questionnaire before getting in the chair. Any man who answers yes to a question asking if he has had sex with another man—even once—since the 1970s is permanently barred from donating.

Canada has been facing a blood shortage, and while the safety of the blood supply is more important than the right of any individual to donate, the questionnaire is flawed; it filters potential donors based purely on who they are, not through any scientific risk analysis. This not only turns away healthy gay donors and fails to catch unhealthy heterosexual ones,  but also perpetuates the myth that all gay men are inherently dangerous. Replacing the question with one that, instead, filters potential donors based on a history of risky behaviour irrespective of their gender would solve these issues.

Hopefully Canadian Blood Services will take note. And who knows? With more and more medical experts coming out against the ban, maybe one day I, too, will be able to experience the pleasure of having my veins punctured with hollow metal spikes, and watch litres of blood leave my body into bags until I feel woozy.

Canada OKs Gay Bone Marrow Donors

December 11th, 2009

And, no, I'm not sure why a skeleton would be able to donate blood in the first place.

Canadian Blood Services has gotten a lot of heat for its unscientific ban of gay blood donors, particularly while blood is at a shortage. Gay men are permanently barred for life from donating blood, even if they have been tested and are in monogamous relationships.

It looks like Canadian Blood Services has been reviewing the science behind some of its policies, though, as a ban on gay men donating bone marrow and stem cells has now been lifted. The policy change is relatively minor, mind you, as bone marrow and stem cell transplants require nearly perfect genetic matches. Only 250 such operations are conducted per year.

Still, that means there are about 250 people annually who will be more likely to find a donor match to save or improve their lives. It’s also a positive step in recognition of the scientific and statistical literature, which has consistently shown that gay men pose no inherent risk, and that screening based on risky sexual practices instead of sexual orientation improves the safety for everyone.

It’s a step in the right direction. Not that I’m too keen on undergoing a painful bone marrow extraction operation right now or anything…

Canadian Blood Services Sues Gay Man For Donating Blood

September 30th, 2009

Basically, careful what you wish for.

Canadian Blood Services is suing Kyle Freeman, a perfectly healthy gay man, for donating blood against CBS policy. Freeman had admitted to lying on the donation forms, which asks all men to reveal their sexual orientation, because he had been recently tested as clean for blood-borne diseases. While the admission was made in an anonymous email, CBS launched an investigation, eventually linking the email to its sender.

Canada permanently bans all gay men from donating blood, even if they practice safe sex or are in monogamous relationships. Interestingly, this does not apply to women who have had unprotected sex with bisexual men, despite them being at the same risk.

The ban, of course, has its share of critics, including none other than the American Red Cross, which called gay blood bans “medically and scientifically unwarranted” in 2007—and statistics support them. Nevertheless, Canadian Blood Services has repeatedly refused to lift the policy and replace it with one involving temporary deferrals based on unsafe sexual behaviours instead of permanent bans over sexual orientation.

CBS says it bans donors which they deem to be high-risk, because their extensive blood screening process cannot yet detect malaria and the human version of mad cow disease. (Both of which, I guess, are rampant throughout the gay community… Moo.)

Kyle Freeman is counter-suing for pain, humiliation, and degradation suffered over being banned for being gay.

Russia Reverses Gay Blood Ban; Canada Still Lags

May 28th, 2008

A bloody goodbye

The Russian Health Ministry announced this week that it has ended its ban on gay blood donors.

This news came as somewhat of a surprise, as homophobia remains a large problem in Russia. Moscow’s first gay rights parade, for example, was met with violent protesters, condemned by the mayor, and banned by the courts. Authorities did nothing to stop violence against the marchers, many of whom where shoved, punched and kicked. This was in 2006.

Still, Russia has recognized what Canada fails to acknowledge: That allowing gay donors does not increase the risk of contaminants in the blood supply. Just last year, the American Red Cross called gay blood donor bans “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” and statistics support them.

In Canada, the fastest growing HIV demographic is young, heterosexual women, which makes up 25% of all HIV infections in the country. More worrying, however, are the statistics from the aboriginal community. In 2005, 22.4% of Canada’s HIV infections were among aboriginals, of which 53% were injection drug users, and 38.9% were women. More locally, a Manitoba study released in March showed that only 18% of HIV transmissions in the province were between gay men, with heterosexual intercourse transmissions climbing to a staggering 32%. The rest of the infections were caused by a mixture of injection drug users, birth transmission, travel, and other causes.

To suggest that young women and aboriginals should be banned from donating, though, would be irresponsible. Recent advances in HIV screening can identify—in only 60 seconds—if a person is infected with HIV with 99.96% accuracy. This is an important change, as when the blood ban was first enacted in Canada there was no effective screening at all.

Still, despite medical evidence and a nine-year low in Canadian Blood Service’s reserves, Health Canada is actually regressing. In January, Health Canada officially banned gays from donating organs, even to dying patients, despite a dangerous and time-sensitive shortage. Many doctors have refused to comply.

This puts Canada in a very strange situation. If medicine and statistics aren’t supporting the gay blood ban, then who is?

One particularly unsurprising group of supporters is lobbyists. Having Health Canada and Canadian Blood Services implement unfair policies toward gays gives an air of legitimacy to homophobia, and the anti-gay lobby jumps on the opportunity. Jim Enos of Hamilton’s Family Action Council has already suggested that since gay blood donors are permanently deferred, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board should cut its anti-homophobia and bullying policies protecting gay students.

Clearly something is awry, and it’s about time that Canada followed Russia’s lead in putting real medical and statistical data first. Canada is desperate for blood donors and classifying blood based on risky practices instead of risky people would increase both the safety and quantity of blood.

Canadian Blood Services To Review Gay Blood Ban

March 12th, 2008

Gay Blood Ban Tests

Canadian Blood Services has indicated that it will be reviewing its policies regarding gay blood donors. Currently, all gay men who have had sex—even once—since 1977 are permanently barred from donating blood, even if they practise safe sex or are in monogamous relationships.

Opponents of the ban suggest changing the rules to screen for risky behaviour instead of simple sexual orientation. Italy, for example, asks all donors if they’ve had unprotected sex or a new partner within the past year as part of their donor eligibility questionnaire. The American Red Cross agrees with this approach, and have called blanket bans on gay donors “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

The studies commissioned by CBS are expected to yield preliminary results in 2009.

Churches And XBoxes And Tories, Oh My!

January 16th, 2008

Pile O’ Slaps: Volume I

In my web travels, I often come across stories that I intend to share, but then become distracted by newer, shinier stories—or feel too lazy to illustrate them in any meaningful or interesting way. Well, no more! Today, I present to you the first-ever Pile o’ Slaps! (i.e., really old stories that I’d otherwise just delete out of my queue.)

Canadian Anglicans have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury to sternly lecture the runaway parishes that evacuated the country over same-sex blessings. It seems that some of these parishes are continuing to minister in Canada remotely from somewhat more exotic locations without all those pesky equal marriage rights.

Students across the country continue to protest Canadian Blood Services’ ban on gay blood donors. Wait… Haven’t I written something about this before?

U.S. Soldiers, presumably fatigued by the war in Iraq, are asking and telling a lot more these days, as army deserters are at their highest level since 1980. Unlike Canada and—well, pretty much every other well-off nation with a military—gays in the U.S. are forbidden to serve in the army openly. What’s that slogan, again? Repress All That You Can Be?

The federal Tories have refused to investigate homophobic abuse within the RCMP, despite calls from the opposition to do so. That’s pretty much in line with their stance of a tougher police force, mind you.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has hinted that his next film may be about gay rights in the states. The film will purportedly outline all of the civil rights that gays have won in the U.S. since the Stonewall days, giving it a runtime of about one-and-a-half minutes.

Singapore has banned Mass Effect, an XBox 360 game, over lesbian intimacy between two aliens. Due to the ban, 14-year-old Singaporean boys will now have to use a different Microsoft product to access their intimacy depictions.

OK, enough of that. Until Friday, kiddos!

Why Can’t Gay Men Donate Blood?

January 7th, 2008

Mister Swamp Blood

Canadian Blood Services is still amidst controversy for its heavy-handed blood donor’s questionnaire. Any man who has had sex with another man, even once, since 1977 is permanently banned from donating blood for life—even if he’s in a monogamous relationship and practices safe sex.

University groups across the country have been protesting this policy—and rightfully so. Statistically, the fastest growing HIV demographic in Canada is young, heterosexual women, which makes up over a quarter of all HIV infections. Yet, according to Blood Services, all gay men are publicly labelled as posing a special danger unshared by the rest of the HIV demographic.

So why does Canadian Blood Services—or, more specifically, Health Canada—continue to uphold the ban? It can’t be statistics; just last May, the American Red Cross called bans on gay blood “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” and other countries—including Italy and Australia—do not permanently ban their gay population from donating.

Whatever the rationale, until Canada’s infamous “question 18” is re-worded to screen for risky behaviours instead of simple sexual orientation, healthy gay men will be forbidden to donate and save lives. Including George Smitherman. He’s Ontario’s Health Minister.

How’s that for irony?

Tidbits From The (Pink) Road

November 14th, 2007

Road Slap

Well, I’m on the road—gone to Atlanta, U.S.A. for a lovely few days of unbearable boredom, followed by a trip out west to see family before flights get expensive.

Hey! Let’s do the news roundup thing!

Québec’s “gay baby” campaign, featuring a picture of a newborn with a “homosexual” hospital armband, has been imported to Europe. While the campaign was praised in Canada, LGBT groups in Italy have criticized it for correlating homosexuality with disease. Conservative groups in Italy have also criticized the ad, presumably for, oh, not condemning gays to the sulfurous caverns of purgatory.

Canadian Blood Services met with students at the University of Western Ontario to clarify their policy to permanently bar gay male blood donors. Apparently, instead of “traditional” blood, gay men feature a different, incompatible circulatory fluid: homo-bismol.

A special Remembrance Day wreath honouring Canada’s gay veterans was laid during Ottawa’s ceremonies on Sunday. Instead of poppies, the wreath featured pink carnations. Next for the wreath-laying organization: trademark the carnation image and legally threaten anyone else who tries to honour war dead with the flower.

Until Friday, kids!

U.S. Upholds Gay Blood Donor Ban

May 28th, 2007

Blood Bank

Despite a recommendation from the Red Cross, the FDA has refused to lift their ban on gay blood donors.

Like Canada, the United States permanently defers men who have had sex with another man from donating blood. The Red Cross called the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” though the FDA contends a lift on the ban is not worth the risk of introducing HIV-infected blood into the supply.

Canadian Blood Services promised to review their policy this spring, where it’s hoped that the “gay deferral” will be replaced by one based on sexual behaviour rather than orientation. In Canada, the fastest-growing HIV demographic is young heterosexual women, which makes up a quarter of all HIV infections.

Ban On Gay Blood Donors To Be Reviewed

March 16th, 2007

Gay Juice

Since 1983, gay men have been permanently banned from donating blood in Canada. Now Canadian Blood Services has finally promised to review the policy this April.

To the surprise of… maybe severe amnesia patients, opponents to the review have already begun preparing arguments to support the ban. Why, you ask? Well, look no further than members of the wacky anti-gay lobby! Jim Enos of Hamilton’s Family Action Council, in a phenomenal leap of logic, suggested that since CBS can bar gay blood donors, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board should turf anti-discrimination and bullying policies for gay students.

Of course, opponents of the review say they’re simply following statistical data about HIV infection rates in gay men, and aren’t being homophobic in the least. (Chortle!)

Personally, I think it’s about freakin’ time CBS reviewed the policy. Deferring donors based on safe-sex practices instead of sexual orientation would not only increase the safety of the blood supply, but help smack the GRIDS out of public consciousness. While the gay community has been particularly affected by HIV and AIDS, Canada’s fastest growing HIV demographic is young heterosexual women, which already forms over a quarter of the HIV infections in the country.

In the meantime, gay men: No blood donor cookies for you!