Thursday, May 03, 2007

Canadian Dud Services

Yesterday was my first day in a brand new office. I showed up at 8:20 and I waited until 8:57 before someone arrived to let me in. It wasn't really a big deal because I'd rather be early than late on my first day. Today I was all set for a 9:00 am arrival. I left home the same time as yesterday, but I parked on the other side of the river and walked the rest of the way so I could save money on parking. I walked off the elevator at 8:55 - perfect timing... except the office door was locked and I don't have a key.

After nobody had arrived fifteen minutes later I pulled out my laptop and did some work right there in the hallway. After nobody had arrived an hour later I decided this situation was ridiculous. Not only did I feel silly sitting on the floor, but I was getting a sore neck. Laptops are very uncomfortable when you actually use them on your lap. I decided I'd be better off to leave and work from home.

I started the long walk back to my car and to pass the time I called my mom. I was waiting to cross the street and I noticed I was in front of the Canadian Blood Services building. Their sign caught my eye and suddenly I was inspired to do something good. I decided I would not go home, and instead I would donate blood. I figured it would be socially responsible... and I get a free donut. I also thought that maybe by the time I was done, I'd be able to get in the office.

Mom she said that they might not let me donate because I have diabetes. When got in I made sure to ask. The woman volunteer behind the counter didn't know, so she called a nurse to come out. She said that I could still donate as long as I wasn't on insulin. Perfect.

After the nurse left, the volunteer began entering my information into the system. I asked her if I could have a Kleenex and she said sure. I said I was so glad that it rained last night because hopefully it has washed away a lot of the stuff making me feel so allergic lately. The volunteer stopped dead in her tracks and she looked at me with the same look Indiana Jones had right before he said he hated snakes. She called over another nurse and asked if allergies will prevent me from donating. The new nurse said it'd be OK as long as I wasn't currently under the effects of any medication. Perfect again.

Next the volunteer took me into another area and sat me down with a pamphlet. She said I had to read it before I could move on. I opened it up and skimmed through it. I stopped at the section on determining if you should or should not donate blood. The first sentence said that you should not donate if you are at risk for HIV. So then I referred to the section on determining if you are at risk for HIV. The first point on the list said that one should not donate blood if they are male and have had sex with another male since 1977. Not so perfect.

I knew that when I last gave blood there was a questionnaire that asked a similar question, but I haven't given blood in 17 years. I honestly didn't expect to see anything like that today because things have changed since then. Back then it was the Red Cross, and since then blood donations have been managed by Canadian Blood Services. Back then AIDS was predominantly considered a 'homosexual disease', and since then we've all learned better.

My mom said that is just one of the ways they determine if you are at risk for HIV, but it isn't even right. Public awareness efforts have been teaching us for years that anyone is vulnerable to contracting HIV, and that anyone can be a carrier. I find it upsetting that Canadian Blood Services doesn't seem to realize that if anyone has had sex with anyone since 1977, that they could be at risk.

The list goes on to include other risk factors, such as intravenous drug use and living in Africa. It even says that 48 hours in jail puts you in the at-risk category. Strangely, the most important consideration is not listed at all. I remember a while back there was an effort to inform the public that AIDS is not a homosexual disease. Article after article, public service announcements in magazines and television, and all sorts of tv shows concerning HIV told us that having sex with many and varied partners - especially strangers - is the best way to contract HIV.

I understand that they are just being cautious. They can't just exclude people if they have had sex, so by excluding any male that has had sex with another male they believe they are just being safe. In truth they aren't being safe at all. Monogamous sex between any two gay men is far safer than sex between any man and woman where one or both has had casual sex with multiple partners. The concern should not be what the genders of the participants are - it should be on how many participants there have been.

Maybe someday they'll change their pamphlet. Until then Canadian Blood Services is rejecting people that are perfectly healthy and at the same time they are allowing people to donate who may be unsafe. For now I just did what the pamphlet said. I didn't donate blood. It's too bad because I have perfectly good blood. I bet someone could have used it.


Anonymous said...

I rekon thats BS, you should be allowed, even if you are deemed 'at risk' even they should be able to at least test your blood then give you the green light, maybe you should go get a private blood test, and show them that you are clean.
Good Luck with your new job!

Sarah J M said...

Well they say that even if they test for HIV, they may not find it.

I think that is why they want to go broad and disqualify all 'at risk' people. I think they are right to do so, but the problem is that they are not seeming to be properly defining who is at risk.

PS. Thanks Squid! How does Condi like his new job?

SB said...

I saw this article today, and thought back to your blog post, and thought you might be interested: