Public Service Alliance of Canada passed a resolution at our 2015 National Convention to lobby governments to rescind the blood, bone marrow and organ donation ban imposed on men and trans women who have had sex with men.
The ban is discriminatory because the criteria is based on sexual orientation rather than high-risk behaviors.
PSAC National President Robyn Benson recently sent a letter to Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor to call for an immediate end to the ban.
Liberal government promise
In the last federal election, the Liberals ran on a promise to eliminate the blood-ban policy. At the time, men could only donate blood if they hadn’t had sex with men for five years. However, ten months after the election, the Liberal government merely reduced the five-year deferral period to one year.
Organizations who have been lobbying for the elimination of the blood ban, such as the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian AIDS Society, chastised the Liberals for reneging on their promise.
On November 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a public apology and offered redress to Canadians who were fired from their jobs or criminally charged for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit or trans. Unfortunately, he failed to take that prime opportunity to end the blood ban, which makes his apology ring a bit hollow.
No scientific basis
Over the last 25 years, there have been no cases of HIV infection through blood transfusion. A major part of the reason for this is the significant advancement in testing for HIV in blood, bone marrow and organ products.
A donation ban should not target a marginalized group, but rather be based on actual risk factors. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is not restricted only to gay men. Other sectors of society, including some heterosexuals, have higher-than-average rates of HIV infection. The current policy under the Liberals continues to discriminate and perpetuate stigma against gay men.
- Canadian Blood Services says that there is a national shortage of blood donations for transfusions.
- In 2011, CBS moved away from the permanent blood ban for men who have sex with men and replaced it with a 10-year deferral policy. Men were allowed to donate only if they hadn’t had sex with other men for 10 years. This was later reduced to five years and further reduced to one year in 2016.
- Over the last 25 years, there have been no cases of anyone getting infected with HIV through blood transfusion.
- In August 2016, Health Canada, under the Liberal government, approved a reduction of the deferral period to one year.
- Nucleic acid testing has reduced the window between infection and detectability of HIV in blood, bone marrow and organs to about 12 days.
- Medical practitioners and other experts agree that there is no scientific basis for the blood ban.