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Canadian AIDS Society, CFS and Egale Canada Critical of Court Ruling Supporting Status Quo with Respect to Lifetime Deferrals on Blood Donation from Men Who Have Sex with Men

September 9, 2010 - OTTAWA, ONTARIO - Today, The Honourable Madam Justice Aitken issued her ruling on the Freeman v Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Attorney General of Canada case, which contested the constitutionality of CBS' lifetime deferral on blood donation for men who have sex with men. In her ruling, Justice Aitken denied to order changes to the wording of the Canadian Blood Service questionnaire for screening blood donors.CAS Board of Directors.

"We're very disappointed with this decision," says Monique Doolittle-Romas, Executive Director of the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS). "Although the judge agreed with us that there is no evidence to justify the current deferral period being used, which applies to any man who had sex with another man even once since 1977, the court refused to order a change. It was also disturbing that the Court saw this as a contest between safety and gay rights. In fact, we know through our work in HIV/AIDS that the only strategies that work are the ones that respect human rights."

Helen Kennedy of Egale Canada (Egale) said, "The Court found that CBS does not have to comply with the Charter because it is not a government entity. It also found that because CBS's policy was based on safety concerns, the questionnaire did not discriminate against gay and bisexual men. The negative consequences this ruling has on Charter rights are enormous."

Shelley Melanson, National Deputy Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) added, "Students are dismayed by the court's decision and will continue to fight this discriminatory policy based on outdated stereotypes that are no longer justifiable."

At the end of May, a Canadian Medical Association Journal article authored by Dr. Mark Wainberg lent further support to arguments calling for amendments to the current lifetime deferral for men who have sex with men. It refers to research that asserts that, ".men who have had sex with men without risk behaviour for five years or longer are not at greater risk of transmitting HIV infection than members of the general population." Other countries, such as Australia, have already made this change with no negative consequences.

For similar reasons, many experts in the United States are also calling for review of the lifetime deferrals on blood donation posed upon men who have sex with men. The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law at the University of California - Los Angeles School of Law issued a study in June that indicated lifting the existing ban could increase the annual US blood supply by 219,000 pints. This represents a 1.4% increase; in Canada, where the average blood supply is in the range of 1.2 million units each year from CBS and Héma-Québec, this would translate to roughly 16,800 additional units.

"In the end, this simply means that groups, such as CAS, CFS and Egale, will continue to apply pressure until CBS relents and changes its outdated policy. It's a divisive policy that turns away many young adults who are dissatisfied with it, and in the process, curtails Canada's blood supply," says CAS Board Vice-Chair Jeffrey Keller. "We will keep fighting for change that will produce an improved screening question that respects both the safety of the blood supply and human rights."

Contrary to what appears in the ruling, CAS, CFS and Egale have resigned from CBS' LGBTTQ Working Group because of the refusal by CBS to change the screening question.

Canadian AIDS Society

The Canadian AIDS Society is a national coalition of over 120 community-based AIDS organizations from across Canada. Dedicated to strengthening the response to HIV/AIDS across all sectors of society, we also work to enrich the lives of people and communities living with HIV/AIDS. We accomplish this by advocating on behalf of people and communities affected by HIV/AIDS, facilitating the development of programs, services and resources for our member groups, and providing a national framework for community-based participation in Canada's response to AIDS.

Canadian Federation of Students

Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada's oldest and largest students' organisation, uniting over one-half million students from all ten provinces.

Egale Canada

Egale Canada is a national organization committed to advancing equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada.

For further information:
Canadian AIDS Society,
Tricia Diduch, Communications Consultant,
(613) 230-3580 ext. 130,

Canadian Federation of Students
Shelley Melanson, National Deputy Chairperson

Egale Canada
Helen Kennedy

Reproduced with permission - Canadian AIDS Society "

Canadian AIDS Society

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