Canadian Blood Services is pushing forward to lift the lifetime blood donation ban put on men who have had sex with other men. The organization is currently putting together its first-ever request to Health Canada to change that policy.
This is good news to people like Vicki Kett with the Access AIDS Network in Sudbury, who said the current ban is archaic and incorrectly assumes that only men who have sex with other men get HIV.
"With today's present blood supply I don't see why a group such as gay men should be excluded," Kett said. "It seems to baffle me because, when I see people who are at risk, they're male, female, young [and] old."
Dallas Bushie hasn't been able to donate blood since he openly admitted being gay. He said he was in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship prior to 2004 and donating blood was not an issue.
"I cannot give blood because I'm with a man, and that frustrates me," he said. "My blood is no different than anyone else’s."
Have to be 'cautious'
Bushie is one of thousands of men affected by the Canadian Blood Services lifetime restriction on blood donations which stops men from donating if they have had sex with another man since 1977.
Bushie said it's discrimination.
"It's almost a paintbrush that, if you're gay, then you've had promiscuous sex," he said.
"They're telling me that I can't have a loving, intimate relationship with my husband as a straight man can with his wife."
Canadian Blood Services recently met with members of the LGBT community and other community stakeholders to discuss changing the restriction to five to 10 years, said the organization’s spokesperson Ron Vezina. He said there is more to consider than simply donor prejudice.
"Given the history of the blood system we have to be very cautious and we must remember that recipients who are infused with blood products bear 100 per cent of the risk — it’s not the donor," he said.
Vezina said Canadian Blood Services hopes to submit the policy change request this fall to Health Canada.