The Canadian Hemophilia Society (CHS) supports continuing government-mandated blood donor deferrals. Current regulations in the U.S. and Canada prevent men who have had sex with men (MSM) since 1977 from donating blood. CHS has released a position paper in opposition to a possible repeal of the current regulations. The Canadian and U.S. bans have been in place since the mid-1980s, when health officials confirmed the main routes of HIV transmission.
CHS has put forth this position to counter the possibility that the U.S. government might adjust its donor deferral policies and limit restrictions to homosexual donors who have had sex within the previous 12 months. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for U.S. blood safety, is being pressured by blood collection agencies to make this change in blood donor deferral policy. On March 9, 2006 the American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers (ABC) and the American Red Cross released a joint statement urging the FDA to modify the deferral period for MSM. Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which maintains Canada’s blood supply, and the Héma-Québec Foundation are both ABC members.
CHS is concerned that minimizing blood donor deferrals could jeopardize the Canadian blood supply by exposing it to new blood-borne viruses. “A one-year ban is not enough. The information we have now is (a change that) would increase health risk, not of HIV, but of either unknown or emerging viruses,” said David Page, spokesman for CHS. CBS is conducting a risk assessment relevant to a change in the current restrictions. As CBS conducts its assessment, it is taking a cautious approach and has expressed little enthusiasm for a repeal of the current ban. “Our mantra, our overriding objective, is safety first,” said Ron Vezina, spokesman for CBS.
For more background information and to read the CHS position paper, go to www.hemophilia.ca/en/1.2.2.php.
Source: Kamloops Daily News (Canada), March 21, 2006