Event: Every year, on 14 June, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day. Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. However, in many countries, demand exceeds supply, and blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety. Today, in just 62 countries, national blood supplies are based on close to 100% voluntary unpaid blood donations, with 40 countries still dependent on family donors and even paid donors.
In 2013, Canada lifted its nearly 30-year-old ban on gay men giving blood, allowing only those who are abstinent to be allowed to donate. The policy, which was implemented by Canadian Blood Services allows men to donate blood if they haven't had sex with another man for five years before the donation. The lifetime ban against donations by gay men was instituted in the mid-1980s by the Red Cross, which was then responsible for the blood supply system. The move was taken when it was realized that the alarming new disease AIDS, which was then untreatable, could be contracted through blood transfusions.
Expert: Mark Wainberg, Director, McGill AIDS Centre
Professor, Medicine, and Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University
Head of the HIV/AIDS research axis, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital
Past President of the International AIDS Society
Expertise: Criticism of the ban has even hit the medical literature. “The current policy is counterproductive in terms of loss of donors, loss of good will, student protests, donor boycotts and lawsuits, among other negative effects,” wrote Wainberg in a 2010 paper for the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Available for interviews in French and English
mark.wainberg [at] mcgill.ca