Trudeau government promises to end ban on gay men donating blood

HALIFAX – The ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is set to be lifted if one of the promises by the incoming Liberal Party of Canada majority federal government comes to fruition.

“The current situation discriminates automatically against men who have sex with men,” said Dr. Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre.

The ban has been in place for decades because sexually active gay men are considered to be in a “high risk group” by Canadian Blood Services (CBS).

Mindy Goldman, the medical director of the organization’s donor and clinic services, said gay men make up 49 per cent of new HIV cases in Canada.

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“It’s just one more way of saying that there’s something wrong with you,” said Rebecca Rose, chairperson of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, in Halifax, regarding the rule. “The ban is discriminatory.”

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Like many other LGBTQ groups, she argued that people of any sexual orientation can have unsafe sexual practices and histories.

“They’re definitely missing out. There could definitely be queer blood drives,” said Rose.

Goldman said the ban is not discriminatory, and pointed out that there are similar bans, including one to reduce the risk of mad cow disease entering the blood supply: “If you’ve spent six months or more in the U.K. from 1980 to 1996, then you’re going to be deferred from [donating].”

In 2013, CBS began allowing gay men to donate as long as they do not have sex with a man five years prior to donating. The organization is now looking at reducing that timeframe to one year starting in 2016.

“We’re headed towards slow, cautious, incremental change because we don’t want to increase risk in our system,” said Goldman in Ottawa over Skype.

Fry said the party is going to be using scientific data and examining what other countries are doing to use as a basis to reconfigure the current system.

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