April 30, 2022 | Sex & Society

Canada drops ban on gay men donating blood

Blood donation, gay menGay men in Canada will be able to give blood starting September 30.

Back in 1992, men who had sex with other men had been banned from donating blood. in 2013, this was changed to allow gay men who had been abstinent for 5 years to donate. It was later reduced to a three-month window between having sex and donating blood.

Health Canada said the decision was "a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been promising to end the ban since 2015, but failed to follow through for several years. Canadian Blood Services finally requested the change last year, and Health Canada released its decision on Thursday.

Starting later this year, the question about a person's sexuality will be removed from the screening process. Instead, questions will focus on high-risk behaviours, regardless of whether a person sleeps with men or women. However, since anal sex is still on the list of high-risk behaviour, many gay men will still find themselves blocked.

"They won't be screening for vaginal sex, they won't be screening for condom use or any other risk behaviour that they should be screening for," explained activist Christopher Karas. "What they're saying is that gay and bi men and transgender [people]... are engaging primarily in anal sex. They're stigmatizing us through this new policy. That's what they're saying with this new policy."

Whether or not you use condoms during anal sex is not asked.

"This should've been done 10 years ago, 15 years ago," Trudeau admitted, before arguing: "But the research, science, investment to be able to ensure that our blood supply continues to be safe, based on data, based on research, simply wasn't done by any previous government."

A step in the right direction? For sure. Still somewhat problematic? You bet it is.

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