Ending a lifetime ban

The DSU attempts to counteract a ban on homophobic regulations

By Cindy Antonacci Tardif

Dawson’s Student Union (DSU) is taking part in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) campaign that aims to contest the lifetime ban imposed by Health Canada prohibiting men who have sex with other men from donating blood.

DSU’s Director of Communications and Media, Matthew Mancini, is heading the campaign alongside Dawson’s gay and lesbian club Etcetera. This discriminatory regulation is nowhere near being new aged.  The ban was first introduced in Canada, United States and the UK in 1983, refusing any blood transfusions from men who had sexual relationships with other men since 1977.

The ordinance was enforced when the AIDS crisis was in its beginnings, ensuring that the blood infected by AIDS would not be transfused to unwary patients. In the 80’s there was no effective method of recognizing AIDS in the human bloodstream.

Dr. Mark Wainberg, head of the McGill University AIDS Centre, stated  in a news release “The 1983 ban has hung on so long, unfortunately, because many people became infected by HIV in the early 80’s through blood transfusions, and they have mounted continuing pressure on the blood agencies to maintain the ban.”

Hema-Quebec presently continues to enforce this law unwillingly. The Donor Qualification page from their website reads: “Man who had sex with a man: No even once since 1977.” On the Who Can Donate Blood? page, Hema-Quebec states: “The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) sets the standards in matters of transfusion safety. These standards provide a basis for the federal regulations applied by Health Canada. In 2009, Héma-Québec submitted a request to amend the criteria applied to men who have had sexual relations with other men to the CSA. Héma-Québec is waiting for a response from that organization.”

The campaign itself is working to remove the ban by giving Canadian students awareness of the issue at hand. Mancini explained:“The most important thing about this campaign is awareness. People need to know what’s wrong with our society, with the things that are happening in our world before they can do anything to change it.”

When asked how the campaign was to proceed, Mancini replied that the specifics will be covered in a meeting on Thursday including DSU executives and Etcetera members. Flyers are being distributed from the DSU along with postings on the issue on their Facebook page.

The Etcetera club is waiting for more information on the campaign before taking any action. When asked about her view on the issue, the President of the Dawson Etcetera club, Kayla Cerone, expressed her displeasure for the ban on blood donation for homosexual men: “I don’t give blood because of it; I don’t think it’s fair.”

Mancini, who is personally affected by the law, is working hard on getting this campaign under way as fast as possible. In his last statement he said: “Really what I want to do is make sure the people understand that it is something wrong, [the legislation] is not based on facts, it is not based on anything that is really relevant or pertinent now in our time.”

Visit the campaign’s site http://www.endtheban.ca for more information and the DSU’s Facebook page for further updates.

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