Men who have had sex with men are indefinitely deferred from donating blood. Medium file photo

Last Tuesday, the Canadian Blood Services hosted a Blood Donor Clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Presentation Room of the Student Centre. As announced in the UTMSU newsletter, the clinic allowed UTM students to partake in the fourth annual cross-Canada donation challenge, “Blood 101: Canadian Students Saving Lives”. The challenge was led by students from university, college, and technical campuses.

The Canadian Blood Services’ website states that “Approximately every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood. In fact, according to a recent poll, 52 percent of Canadians say they or a family member have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment. The good news is that one blood donation—in just one hour—can save up to three lives.”

The site explains, “At the time of donation, you will be asked a number of questions to determine your eligibility.” A person is temporarily deferred from donating if they have had dental treatment (extractions, fillings, cleaning, restoration), and, in order to fully recover, must wait until the day after treatment for cleaning or filling or 72 hours after extraction, root canal, or dental surgery. If they have had a cold, flu, or sore throat, full recovery is required, with a six-month waiting period for those who have had ear or body piercing or tattooing.

In addition to other temporary deferrals, the website enumerates the criteria for indefinite deferral. The site says, “Unfortunately, some people may not be able to donate. Serious health problems, possible exposure to infectious disease(s), or participation in high-risk activities can defer some prospective donors indefinitely.” Common reasons for such a deferral are living in certain geographic areas, possible exposure to CJD or vCJD, HIV high-risk activities, disease, diabetes (insulin-treated), false positive test results, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

However, in light of the recent “To Ban or Not to Ban” debate hosted by OUT@UTM in conjunction with UTMSU’s Ministry of Equity, many students dispute the Canadian Blood Services’ prohibition of MSM (men who have sex with men) donors. For the indefinite deferral of HIV high-risk activities, the site explains, “All men who have had sex with another man (even once) since 1977 are indefinitely deferred.

This is based on current scientific knowledge and statistical information that shows that men who have had sex with other men are at greater risk for HIV/AIDS infection than other people.”

When asked what reasons UTMSU has for bringing the blood donor clinic back to campus despite opposition from, and the clinic’s exclusion of, minority students, VP Equity Kumari Giles responded, “When we were approached by the Canadian Blood Services in the summer regarding booking clinics we had a discussion about the clinic. We acknowledge that the CBS is constantly looking for donors and there are numerous people who require blood transfusions every year. For this reason, we wanted to keep the blood clinic here, to allow more lives to be saved.”

“However, there is great concern within the student body over the phrasing and reasoning behind many of the policies of the CBS, as you know,” Giles continued. “First, we have had many discussions within the Ministry of Equity about CBS policy; from this, the ‘To Ban or Not to Ban’ event was suggested. The event occurred last week and was successful in spawning debate and discussion.”

Giles added, “The policies of the CBS are examples of how discrimination has been systemically enforced and perpetuated.” Speaking about UTMSU’s efforts to address these students’ concerns, Giles said, “In response to numerous accounts of discrimination on campus, the Ministry of Equity will also look at completing a task force on homophobia to investigate student life on campus and how homophobia presents itself systemically. To get involved in the decision whether or not to complete this task force and other campaigns and events, please come to the next Ministry of Equity meeting, October 7 at 4 p.m. in the Student Centre Green Room.”

For more information on eligibility requirements, the Donor Questionnaire, and where to donate, students are asked to call 1-888-2-DONATE or visit the Canadian Blood Services website at .

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