Andrew Downing

December 1997

Yep, it's me again, back for Oasis' anniversary edition. How could I stay away?

Before I get on with my column, I'd just like to congratulate all the staff of Oasis for a great year so far, and thank all the terrific writers and great readers who've stuck with Oasis for all this time. Without all of you, this wouldn't have been possible.

So, without further ado, let's get to the column before I start crying.

Well, the Red Cross has been fired as the administrators of Canada's blood system.

And it's about bloody time.

For years, the Red Cross has systematically discriminated against gay men. Their screening questionnaire bluntly asks you whether, if you're male, you have had sex with another man since 1979. If the answer is yes, you're automatically rejected. It is of note that heterosexual activity is not asked about -- apparently they don't feel that straight people are an HIV risk.

The Red Cross claims that what they do is for the protection of the blood supply; not only is their information about HIV and AIDS outdated, and just plain wrong, but their efforts to screen HIV and Hepatitis from the blood supply were incompetent and ineffectual.

This is why they've been removed as administrators of the blood supply. Red Cross blood, in the 1980's, was responsible for literally hundreds of HIV and Hepatitis infections. All this, despite their blatantly discriminatory screening process.

The Krever Commission inquiry, launched in the wake of this tainted blood scandal, has led the government to give the Red Cross the proverbial boot, so to speak. And I say, "Terrific!" Of course, the government's decision does raise one very large question.

"What in gay hell took them so long?"

It's not as if the Red Cross' involvement in these peoples' deaths was a secret. (Also of note, the Red Cross has given some of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against them compensation packages, but still refuses to accept liability.)

Personally, I think that criminal charges should be laid against all those involved with the screening process, and with the Red Cross' shameful attempt at a cover-up.

To me, this is conspiracy to commit fraud and murder. And the galling thing is that they've gotten away with it. These people were told that a blood transfusion would be necessary to save their lives -- instead, the transfusion infected them with a fatal and incurable disease. The patients are victims of murder; the doctors are victims of fraud, having been told in what they thought was good faith that the blood they were receiving was free of infection. In fact, the Red Cross guaranteed it. They were far from that -- they were, in essence, bottles of slow-acting poison. Receiving a blood transfusion in the 1980's in Canada was like playing a game of Russian Roulette -- with a gun you've been told isn't loaded.

While I realize that criminal charges are impractical, and more or less impossible, I suppose I can settle for the Red Cross' removal from the blood system. Hopefully, they'll find a replacement soon.

Until then, I'll be very careful not to cut myself.


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