Advocates hope Liberals will help drop barriers for gay men to donate blood

There is hope that a change in government in Ottawa will help eliminate barriers for gay men to donate blood.

There is hope that a change in government in Ottawa will help eliminate barriers for gay men to donate blood.

Men who have sex with men must be celibate for five years before giving blood in Canada, but some advocates, including the federal Liberal party, say that period is too long.

Nancy Campana, whose son Rocky was unable to donate his organs after his death, said most doctors won't consider taking organs or blood from men who have sex with men in Canada because there aren't standardized rules for donations.

"The science is there to test all our blood," Campana said. "So we have to be confident in the testing system, the most modern testing system  we have now."

Current tests can detect most strains of HIV as long as the donor hasn't contracted the virus within 16 days of donation.    

But Dr. Mindy Goldman, the medical director of the Canadian Blood Services said there are some rare strains of HIV that take longer to show up. The blood service is asking for incremental change in the waiting period, decreasing the wait to one year starting in 2016.

Wait period discriminatory, advocates say 

"We feel that there is sufficient evidence that a one year deferral period would be safe," Goldman said. "We are hoping to move forward in an incremental way, keeping in mind that any increase in risk will be borne by patients who will receive the blood donation."

"I'm definitely excited about the news they plan to lift this ban. But at the same time we want to see action where gay and bisexual men can be active donors with regards to blood and organs," said Colm Holmes, the president of Windsor Pride Community Education and Resource Centre's board of directors.

"There are two sides to the coin," he said. "There are individuals out there in need of blood donation and healthy organs and a pool of individuals being denied the right to donate."

Holmes said the ban effectively creates a two-tier system and is discriminatory.

"There's a rigorous process around donating your organs or donating blood in Canada and as long as they apply that same process to LGBT, or gay and bi men specifically, I think they'll be okay," Holmes said. ​

CBC News attempted to reach Hedy Fry, a veteran Liberal MP who was re-elected in Monday's election, as she has been campaigning to end the five-year ban.  

During the election the Liberals said they would work with Health Canada and the blood agencies to reduce the wait time.

With a report from the CBC's Dale Molnar


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