Gay men will soon be able to give blood in the UK. The country banned gay and bisexual men from donating blood in the mid-1980s, when HIV and AIDS were emerging diseases. That ban, which has often been criticized as outdated and discriminatory, has now been lifted - although it still applies to men who have had sex with other men in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, Canada still does not allow blood donations from gay men. Health Canada says it is aware of the UK decision, but has no immediate plans to change the policy in this country. Nevertheless, the will to change the law exists at some of Canada's blood agencies: a spokesperson for Canadian Blood Services said "our hope is that we move away from a permanent ban to a timed deferral."
It's possible that this decision could be a tipping point for other countries, as well. U.S. Senator John Kerry, who is pushing to end the 28-year ban on gay men donating blood in the States, told The Advocate that "this is likely the start of a trend globally that I'd rather we be leading than following."
Most gay rights activists have praised the lifting of the ban, but some still question the 12-month deferral period. Peter Tatchell, British gay rights activist, called it "excessive and unjustified," adding that gay and bisexual men "can and should be allowed to help save lives by becoming donors."