Canadian Blood Services to Ask Health Canada to End Three-Month Blood Ban

Written on 08/06/2021
Staff Columnist

After a recent tweet by Canadian Blood Services, doctors are commenting on the three-month ban for men who have sex with men donating blood — CTV News reported.

The research chair for public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University, Dr. Kristopher Wells, said removing the three-month wait is long overdue.

“It certainly follows what the federal government had previously announced that by the end of this year, the blood ban preventing gay and transgender individuals from donating should be lifted,” Dr. Wells told CTV News.

“This has been a promise of the federal government for quite some time, and frankly, it is about time that it has come to fruition,” he said.

The three-month time lag is only for LGBTQ2S+ people.

“It has been discriminatory – there is no other way to describe it. To single out gay men or men who have sex with men to prevent them from donating blood because of outdated stereotypes and misinformation. It perpetuates a lot of harm and stigmatization,” said Dr. Wells.

He added that many countries across the globe have changed their policies and screen-based on behaviour.

“This is the direction Canada should have been moving many years ago. Canadian Blood Services has been slow and has placed many obstacles and barriers ahead of this important change,” he explained.

Canada screens all blood donations, which makes the supply system incredibly safe.

However, it had the opportunity to set a tone for change, and now Dr. Wells says the country is “playing catch-up.”

Because Canada currently has a blood donation shortage, he believes changing this policy should be a top priority.

“There is no reason why this ban can’t be lifted right now,” said Dr. Wells.

“Same-sex marriage has been legalized in Canada for more than 15 years -- back in 2005. We still are seeing barriers and discrimination in other parts of Canadian society. The blood ban is one primary example. It continues to perpetuate this myth that that gay men are somehow more sexually promiscuous than heterosexual individuals,” he said.

A senior media relations advisor for Health Canada told CTV News in a statement: “Health Canada remains open to reviewing further changes to the MSM donor deferral policy, including its elimination provided that submission contains scientific evidence that demonstrates that such a change would not introduce unacceptable risks to Canada’s blood system.”

Long ago, the Liberal government promised to end the blood ban but never followed through.

Now, with talks of a federal election, the party is feeling the pressure.

“What happened to the Liberal government’s promise? This was one of the cornerstone announcements in previous federal election campaigns, and it was never delivered,” said Dr. Wells.

“Every political party in Canada – even the Conservative Party now supports removing these discriminatory restrictions and that all people should be able to donate blood regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.

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