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The argument that Kyle Freeman should not be ineligible to donate blood simply because he is gay is, at first blush, compelling.

Blanket prohibitions against selfless acts are not to be taken lightly. Nor is any policy that further marginalizes gay and bisexual men.

The overarching principle of safety in this case, however, outweighs any discrimination that gay men may suffer in being declared ineligible as blood donors.

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Madam Justice Catherine Aitken of the Superior Court of Ontario was right to uphold the policy of the Canadian Blood Services, which screens out as blood donors men who have sex with other men, even once, since 1977.

She correctly found that the policy is not based on stereotypes about homosexual men, but is necessary to protect the safety of the country's blood supply, and the recipients of blood products, who need transfusions in order to survive.

Indeed, other groups are also screened out, including people who were born in certain African countries, those with syphilis and injection-drug users.

Donating blood is simply, she writes, not an activity that goes to the heart of a person's identity in the same way as working, being in a relationship or worshipping does. It is not an automatic right.

Madam Justice Aitken also dismissed Mr. Freeman's constitutional challenge, saying that since Canadian Blood Services is not a government entity, the Charter of Rights does not apply.

Even if it did, the judge added, gay men are not ineligible because of their sexual orientation, but due to a higher prevalence of HIV and other blood-borne, sexually transmitted diseases. Men who have sex with men are 365 times more likely to be HIV-positive than the rest of the Canadian population.

The case began when Canadian Blood Services sued Mr. Freeman for lying about his sexual history before donating blood. He launched a counterclaim, but he was found liable for $10,000 for negligent misrepresentation and endangering blood recipients.

The decision is not a popular one, and was condemned by gay-rights groups and some legal scholars.

However, Mr. Freeman, who testified that he used safe-sex practices and had his blood tested regularly before he donated blood, also illustrates the paramount importance of donor screening.

He contracted both syphilis and gonorrhea during the period he was donating blood - despite the many precautions he said he took.

This case came about in the shadow of the tainted blood scandal; between 1980 and 1990 about 32,000 people were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through tainted blood.

Doctors are only aware of a tiny percentage of all the pathogens that exist, and donor screening is critical to protect the blood supply from new and emerging pathogens.

Though Canadian Blood Services tests blood for AIDS, there are windows of time during which the virus cannot be detected.

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It is appropriate, though regrettable, that men who have had sex with another male are ineligible to donate their blood.

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