Canadian Blood Services explains MSM policy

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Canadian Blood Services' MSM policy info session

Jonas Hrebeniuk

HOPING FOR ACTION AND CHANGE. Members of the Western community attended Canadian Blood Services' MSM policy information session in the University Students' Council Chambers this past Friday to voice their dissatisfaction.

Canadian Blood Services’ visit to campus drew a large, angry crowd to University Students’ Council Chambers on Friday night.

David Simmonds, VP-university affairs for the USC, said the purpose of the meeting was to allow CBS to explain the origins of the men who have had sex with men (MSM) policy and give students a progress report.

CBS representatives began the talk with a brief summary of the history of CBS and its purpose. They followed with the reasons behind the MSM policy, which bans men who have had sex with another man since 1977 from giving blood.

Lorna Tessier, national director of public relations for CBS, defended the policy, explaining, “the public has zero tolerance for any risks.”

Standing Against Queer Discrimination is a campus group recently created in response to the MSM policy. One of its representatives handed out pamphlets at the door entitled, “Canadian Blood Services MSM Policy: A Practice of Hatred and Homophobia.”

The handout criticized the Canadian Government, and said “[It] continues to promote the message that men who have sexual relationships with other men are essentially dirty, or contaminated by it.”

But Tessier said obstacles made it difficult to change policy. CBS would have to present a case to Health Canada and “ensure the changes will not lower its health standards.”

After a recent review of the MSM rule this summer, CBS’ Board of Directors decided to “maintain a current policy while actively launching extensive research.”

This will involve monitoring other agencies who have made changes and looking for new statistics on HIV percentages that would justify a new policy.

After the CBS representatives spoke, the floor was open for questions from the audience.

One student asked why CBS did not defer sexually active gay men from donating blood for five years, rather than banning them outright.

A CBS spokesperson explained it did consider that option in conversation with the Canadian Federation of Students, but decided it did not “get to the point of discrimination.”

Although the time for questions eventually came to an end, several students still appeared unsatisfied.

As the meeting closed, individual members of SAQD rose in protest and repeated the phrase, “I’m standing against queer discrimination and I will not be silenced.”

Joshua Ferguson, co-activist director of SAQD, was especially frustrated with the presence of the Campus Community Police Service at the event and the removal of public media.

Simmonds said the A-Channel was asked to leave because the meeting was meant for students and not the public.

But Ferguson said this was an “obvious attempt to prevent student voices from being heard.”

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