Why Can’t Gay Men Donate Blood?

January 7th, 2008

Mister Swamp Blood

Canadian Blood Services is still amidst controversy for its heavy-handed blood donor’s questionnaire. Any man who has had sex with another man, even once, since 1977 is permanently banned from donating blood for life—even if he’s in a monogamous relationship and practices safe sex.

University groups across the country have been protesting this policy—and rightfully so. Statistically, the fastest growing HIV demographic in Canada is young, heterosexual women, which makes up over a quarter of all HIV infections. Yet, according to Blood Services, all gay men are publicly labelled as posing a special danger unshared by the rest of the HIV demographic.

So why does Canadian Blood Services—or, more specifically, Health Canada—continue to uphold the ban? It can’t be statistics; just last May, the American Red Cross called bans on gay blood “medically and scientifically unwarranted,” and other countries—including Italy and Australia—do not permanently ban their gay population from donating.

Whatever the rationale, until Canada’s infamous “question 18” is re-worded to screen for risky behaviours instead of simple sexual orientation, healthy gay men will be forbidden to donate and save lives. Including George Smitherman. He’s Ontario’s Health Minister.

How’s that for irony?