Canadian Blood Services sets up 'rainbow clinic' to take donations from gay men

Canadian Blood Services is appealing to sexually active gay men to donate blood tomorrow at a special clinic set up at the University of British Columbia.

Gay men can donate blood for research, but still can't contribute blood for transfusion

Canadian Blood Services won't accept blood from sexually active gay men for transfusion, but says those men can still donate blood for research. (CBC)

Canadian Blood Services is appealing to gay men to donate blood tomorrow at a special clinic set up at the University of British Columbia.

The Rainbow Donor Clinic came about because of the agency's restrictions on donations from men who have sex with men. 

While the agency won't accept blood from sexually active gay and bisexual men for transfusions, the blood collected at the Rainbow Donor Clinic can be used for research purposes.

"This came from the community from Chad Walters, who is a gentleman who was deferred from donating blood for transfusion and he was made aware of our clinic, the netCAD clinic, where all deferred donors can donate blood for research," associate medical director for the West for Canadian Blood Services Dr. Tanya Petraszko told CBC Radio The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"He took it upon himself to hold a rainbow clinic to raise awareness in the men who have sex with men community I think Chad's point was that not a lot of people recognize this."

Petraszko said the blood could be used by any researcher whose proposal clears the agency's ethics board.

"This could be used for cancer therapy, for cancer research, looking at the kinds of proteins we have on red blood cells, how the immune system works — all sorts of clinical and applied research."

Canadian Blood Services recently relaxed its rules around donations from gay men. Until 2013, it had declined donations from any man who had sex with another man. The ban had been in place since 1977.

The restrictions were changed to limit any man who has had sex with another man in the last five years.

"This is what Canadian Blood Services thinks is a first step. It's certainly still very restrictive," said Petraszko.

"What Health Canada wants us to do is demonstrate that in the first two years we have not seen an increased risk of viruses in the blood supply, so Canadian Blood Services is working on that."

The Rainbow Donor Clinic and open house will be held Wednesday from noon until 7 p.m. at the netCAD clinic at the University of British Columbia.

To hear the full interview with Dr. Tanya Petraszko, click the audio labelled: Canadian Blood Services appeals to gay donors.

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