A BLOOD BARRIER?

Canadian union: End ban on gay men donating blood

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Canadian union A.B.C. continues to gather signatures for a parliamentary petition calling on the federal government to end what it calls “discriminatory” practices that bar gay men from donating blood.

Annette Toth, vice-president of MoveUp, which represents working professionals in British Columbia, said the idea came up as the union was looking to get involved with blood drives this spring.

“One of our members said, ‘I really like this idea, but you do know that I can’t donate blood?” Toth said. “He explained that because he is a gay man, he can’t donate blood, even though he’s been in a monogamous relationship for 10 years.

“We were stunned. This isn’t acceptable, it’s not the 1950s anymore.”

Canadian Blood Services currently requires men and transgender women to abstain from sex with men for one year before they can donate blood. That was dropped from five years, after the agency petitioned Health Canada in 2016. It will take another two years of gathering evidence should the agency want to for another change.

The policy has long drawn fire from LGBTQ groups who argue it should target all people based on their actual sexual behaviour, rather than on certain groups’ sexual preferences.

“It’s not based in science, it’s based in fear,” Toth said, adding unprotected, promiscuous sex is the risk factor.

“If two men walked into Canadian Blood Services right now and wanted to donate blood, the straight man who has unprotected sex would be able to donate blood, but the gay man in a monogamous relationship would not.”

A parliamentary petition needs 500 signatures to trigger a response by the government in the House of Commons. MoveUp’s petition had reached more than 3,600 names by Monday afternoon. It is set to close in July.

Canadian Blood Services said in a statement to Black Press Media that it is focused on moving away from a time-based policy and towards an “alternative screening approach,” which could change the rules for gay men.

“As part of our research program, we are working to gather the scientific evidence required to determine whether it is possible to reliably identify low-risk, sexually active men who have sex with men.”