Gay men should not be banned from donating blood, say AIDS research pioneers

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Washington, May 6 (ANI): Pioneering AIDS researchers have called for a change in policies that ban gay men from donating blood - calling the move unscientific and wrong.

Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Norbert Gilmore have said that the ban issued on gay men since 1983 by blood agencies in Canada, the United States and many other industrialized nations was justified scientifically and ethically, but now - it makes no sense.

"The 1983 ban has hung on so long, unfortunately, because many people became infected by HIV in the early 80s through blood transfusions, and they have mounted continuing pressure on the blood agencies to maintain the ban," says Wainberg.

"While we can sympathize with them, this no longer makes sense in 2010, and with each passing year it makes less sense."

Wainberg and Gilmore advocate allowing only those gay men in stable, long-term, monogamous relationships to donate blood, while maintaining the ban on those with multiple sex partners. Heterosexuals with multiple partners, he points out, currently only face one-year deferrals.

"Other jurisdictions, like Australia, have already replaced the lifetime ban with more balanced and realistic policies, and I think it's time that Canada and the U.S. did the same," says Gilmore. "Today's technology makes it almost impossible for HIV to slip through, and the total ban puts a huge burden on blood agencies and the blood supply. We constantly have blood shortages that would not occur, perhaps, if we had a more reasonable policy."

"There's a social justice aspect to this as well, which extends beyond the gay community," Wainberg adds. "When a discriminatory policy isn't justified by the science, it leads to controversy. We've seen protests and boycotts of blood drives on Canadian campuses, so I think the blood agencies would be better off if they agreed with us. I suspect, honestly, that many of them already do, in private."

The article is published May 25 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ.) (ANI)

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