Change policy that bans blood donations from men who have sex with men

May 25, 2010, Canadian Medical Association Journal

It is time to change the policy that bans blood donations in Canada from all men who have sex with men, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Since 1983, blood agencies in Canada, the United States and other industrialized countries have disallowed blood donations from men who have sex with men because of the possibility of infection with /AIDS. The exclusion barred men who had sex with men from 1977 onwards as it was determined this date preceded the start of the AIDS epidemic.

Prospective are required by Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec (and blood agencies in other countries) to complete a questionnaire about medical history and potentially harmful behaviour. Intravenous drug users, people with possible exposure to Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, people who have exchanged money for sex or drugs and men who have sex with men are all permanently deferred from giving blood.

However, while some industrialized countries such as France, Germany, the US and Canada have lifetime deferrals, others have shorter deferral periods: one year in Argentina, Australia, Japan, Hungary and Sweden, five years in South Africa and 10 years in New Zealand.

In 2005, an estimated 5.4% of homosexuals and bisexuals in Canada were HIV- positive, 67-fold greater than the general population. However, more than 95% of homosexuals and bisexuals in Canada are not HIV-positive.

The risk of a false negative, one reason for the ban, has been almost eliminated.

"With the development of more sensitive HIV detection tests, the potential occurrence of a false-negative result is now remote, since the system no longer relies exclusively on either the enzyme-linked immunosorption assay (ELISA) introduced in 1985 or the more accurate confirmatory Western blot test, also introduced in 1985," writes Dr. Mark Wainberg, McGill University AIDS Centre, Jewish General Hospital with coauthors.

A significant benefit to reducing the deferral period for men who have sex with men would be the enlargement of the blood donor pool. A one-year deferral would result in a risk of one HIV positive unit of blood being undetected in every 11 million units of blood. Another option would be a five-year deferral which in the US would result in 71,400 more donors.

"Current policy is counterproductive in regard to loss of donors, good will, student protests, potential boycotts, lawsuits etc.," conclude the authors. "It should be noted that policy, has, in fact, changed to now permit donations from persons of Haitian origin. It's time to change policy again."

More information: www.cmaj.ca/cgi/doi/10.1503/cmaj.091476

Related Stories

Recommended for you

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

January 9, 2018
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule ...

New long-acting, less-toxic HIV drug suppresses virus in humanized mice

January 8, 2018
A team of Yale researchers tested a new chemical compound that suppresses HIV, protects immune cells, and remains effective for weeks with a single dose. In animal experiments, the compound proved to be a promising new candidate ...

Usage remains low for pill that can prevent HIV infection

January 8, 2018
From gritty neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles to clinics in Kenya and Brazil, health workers are trying to popularize a pill that has proven highly effective in preventing HIV but which—in their view—remains woefully ...

Researchers find clues to AIDS resistance in sooty mangabey genome

January 3, 2018
Peaceful co-existence, rather than war: that's how sooty mangabeys, a monkey species found in West Africa, handle infection by SIV, a relative of HIV, and avoid developing AIDS-like disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.