This past week I tried to donate blood when the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) set up their clinic at Fountain Commons. I registered, passed the iron level test (which in the past I have failed, so I was happy about this) and waited to answer the questionnaire with the nurse. Prior to attending, my understanding was that as a gay man donating blood, I was permitted if I knew I wasn’t infected with a disease, namely HIV/AIDS. I was shocked when I was told I could not donate because I’ve had sexual interaction with a man within the last five years. FIVE YEARS. I have been tested for HIV/AIDS to make sure I could donate, and yet I’m still oppressed by this ban.
I asked my nurse “You test the blood anyway, so what’s the difference between my blood and a woman or man who doesn’t know the sexual history of their partners?” The answer: “We don’t, however we cannot be entirely sure and must follow protocol.”
After going on the CBS website and reading about their policy on MSM relationships (men who have sex with men), I was still left without a valid reason as to why gay men cannot donate. They state there is a “nine-day period shortly after infection when an individual may transmit HIV but the virus is not detected by our tests.” So why must I abstain for sex for five years if the detection period is less than two weeks?
To shed some light on this abhorrent policy, observe this scenario: Mary, a heterosexual donates her blood, not knowing she’s HIV+. Jack, a homosexual who’s been tested to make sure he’s HIV free isn’t given the chance to donate. The detection test picks up Mary’s infection, and her blood is removed from the bank. Meanwhile, Jack’s could have been used to help the person Mary couldn’t.
The CBS’s statistics of a gay male providing a positive HIV sample of blood are outdated, which gives the impression that they’re discriminating against actively sexual gay men. Heterosexual individuals are allowed to be sexually active with as many people as they want, not knowing those people’s sexual histories and yet they can donate as they please. CBS would rather reject my healthy blood than accept it and run it through the same test that all blood gets.
It’s extremely disheartening to walk into the clinic, go through all the paper work and waiting, only for them to shamefully turn you around because of a factor that shouldn’t affect trying to save someone’s life, and additionally making you feel scummy and contaminated. I didn’t chose to be gay, but I did chose to try and make a difference.
“It’s in you to give.” I call bullshit. Apparently it’s not in ME.