Canadian Blood Services to ask Health Canada to remove controversial 3-month blood ban
The long-awaited removal of the three-month ban for men who have sex with men donating blood has doctors weighing in after a tweet by Canadian Blood Services.
Kristopher Wells, associate professor and Canada research chair for public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University, said removing the three-month waiting period is long overdue.
“It certainly follows on what the federal government had previously announced that by the end of this year, the blood ban preventing gay and transgender individuals from donating should be lifted,” said Dr. Wells.
“This has been a promise of the federal government for quite some time, and frankly it is about time that it has come to fruition,” he added.
The three-month deferral period applies to the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“It has been discriminatory – there is no other way to describe it. To single out gay men or men who have sex with men to prevent them from donating blood because of outdated stereotypes and misinformation. It perpetuates a lot of harm and stigmatization,” said the doctor.
Wells says that many other countries have moved forward to behaviour-based screening.
“This is the direction Canada should have been moving many years ago. Canadian Blood Services has been slow and has placed many obstacles and barriers ahead of this important change,” he said.
For the doctor, he says it is difficult for some to understand the reason behind the slow-moving change to allow gay who have sex with men to donate blood.
“All blood is screened in Canada regardless. The blood supply system is incredibly safe.”
While Canada had an opportunity to show leadership and be at the forefront of change, Wells says the country is now “playing catch-up."
During a time when Canada is dealing with blood shortages, the change should be a priority, he argued.
“There is no reason why this ban can’t be lifted right now,” said Dr. Wells.
“Same sex marriage has been legalized in Canada for more than 15 years -- back in 2005. We still are seeing barriers and discrimination in other parts of Canadian society. The blood ban is one primary example. It continues to perpetuate this myth that that gay men are somehow more sexually promiscuous than heterosexual individuals,” he said.
In a statement, Annie Génier, a senior media relations advisor for Health Canada said: “Health Canada remains open to reviewing further changes to the MSM donor deferral policy, including its elimination provided that submission contains scientific evidence that demonstrates that such a change would not introduce unacceptable risks to Canada’s blood system.”
LIBERAL GOVERNMENT'S PROMISE TO END BLOOD BAN
With a federal election looming, the pressure to remove the three-month ban is growing.
“What happened to the Liberal government’s promise? This was one of the cornerstone announcements in previous federal election campaigns and it was never delivered,” said Dr. Wells.
“Every political party in Canada – even the Conservative Party now supports removing these discriminatory restrictions and that all people should be able to donate blood regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he added.
A previous version of this story stated Canadian Blood Services had posted and deleted the tweet. The tweet was not deleted and is now embedded in the story. CTV News Edmonton apologizes for the error.