Did you know that Canada’s blood donation policies still discriminate?
Canada’s health care system faces a chronic shortage of donated blood and blood products.
But despite this shortage, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Quebec still discriminate against men who have sex with men.
This ban covers all blood and tissue donation, including post-COVID plasma donation.
A new policy also bans trans women who have not had gender-affirming surgery, who also have sex with men, from donating.
These policies are based on stigma, not science and their continued existence represents a broken promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau pledged to end the ban during the 2015 federal election.
The current policy ignores:
Scientific innovation in HIV and Hepatitis C testing since the 1980s.
That anyone can engage in high-risk sexual behaviours.
That people exposed through heterosexual sex are most likely to be unaware of their HIV infection.
The prevalence of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), a pharmaceutical drug that reduces risk of contracting HIV, in Canada.
Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Quebec should ask all donors the same questions, and those questions should be based on specific high-risk sexual behaviours, not who you love or what your gender identity is.
In a nutshell what the Canadian Blood Services is saying is that if you are a heterosexual male who practices unsafe sex with multiple partners, your blood is considered less at-risk compared to a gay or bisexual male who is monogamous and practices safe sex,” said Seifert. “Screening questions should be about lowering the risk of all people who have unsafe sex, not targeting sexual or gender orientation. It’s quite simply discrimination when you single out a particular group.”
“Modern screening tests are what keeps our blood supply safe"
According to the Canadian Blood Services website, the organization uses antibody testing and nucleic acid testing (NAT) on every donation. There is a period of nine days known as the ‘window period’ between exposure to HIV and the ability to detect antibodies to that virus.
If the issue with the testing is that HIV is undetectable in the first nine days then everyone should be screened
Screening questions should be based on safety and science, not sexual orientation
At Canadian Blood Services, we periodically review our donor eligibility criteria, including those related to men who have sex with men. In 2019, Health Canada approved Canadian Blood Services’ and Héma-Québec’s applications to reduce the men who have sex with men waiting period from one year to three months. In other words, as long as they meet all other donor eligibility criteria, a man is now eligible to donate blood if it has been at least three months since he last had sex with a man. We believe this is an important step toward being as minimally restrictive as possible while also maintaining the safety of the blood supply.
This change was made after extensive review of scientific and epidemiologic evidence. Equally important was the consultation with high-interest groups, including patient groups representing heavy users of blood and blood products as well as members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community groups