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Gay man donated blood to get HIV test: lawyer

in CANADA, 06/10/2009

Freeman used Canadian Blood Services for blood screening, uncomfortable with question about sex with other men

Kyle Freeman used the donation screening system to test his blood whenever he had an HIV scare, a lawyer for Canadian Blood Services said Wednesday.

Freeman, 36, also lied about having sex with unknown partners before making a blood donation in February 1999 after an “indiscretion” where he performed unprotected oral sex on someone he met at a bath house, Sally Gomery said.

He only revealed that sexual liaison to his 18-year-old boyfriend after becoming concerned he was infected with HIV, she told an Ottawa court.

Freeman, who is gay, is suing Canadian Blood Services, claiming the agency violated his charter right to equality when it asked on a blood-donor questionnaire whether he had ever had sex with a man.

Besides the 1999 donation, Freeman donated blood three times in 116 days in 1998 after receiving a false positive on a HIV test at his doctor’s office. Five days after the first of those donations, Freeman called the Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Blood Services’ predecessor, to advise it of the false positive.

By then, his blood had already been distributed to recipients in need of transfusions, Gomery said.

“I never used blood services as a vehicle to test my blood for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and HIV,” said Freeman, who is not HIV-positive, but has had gonorrhea and late latent syphilis.

Freeman said he repeatedly lied on the questionnaire before giving blood because the question about sex with other men made him “nauseous.”

“My stomach would turn. I’d be uncomfortable, embarrassed, ashamed,” he said. “Almost like a criminal. It was like I was doing something bad even though I knew I was helping people. Even though my blood was pure, I just felt guilty.”

His legal action is a countersuit, launched after Canadian Blood Services sued him for negligent misrepresentation for repeatedly lying on the questionnaire designed to screen out donors who could put the blood system at risk. The agency bans donations from men who have had sex with men since 1977 on the grounds that that was when the AIDS epidemic began and that people can be infected with AIDS for as long as three months before tests detect signs of the disease in their blood.

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