Canadian Blood Services have changed the deferral period for bisexual and gay men, but some say it’s not a good change.
The Canadian Blood Services guidelines have reduced the blood-donation deferral period from one year to three months. That means men who engage in sex with other men (or MSM) would need to abstain from sex for three months before donating blood.
That said, Marie Renaud, a medical lab assistant for St. Albert, Alberta, says that this isn’t enough.
“I would have hoped that Canadian Blood Services would have asked Health Canada to eliminate this altogether,” she expressed. “I don’t really understand why we’re not going to look at the science, and look at the reality of life in Canada and just make these changes and stop the discrimination of this huge swath of people.”
In addition, Kristopher Wells, associate professor of health and community studies at MacEwan University, told StAlbertToday that identities shouldn’t play a part in blood donation.
“They’re saying … the HIV virus can still remain undetectable when donating blood for a period of time, that somehow the blood supply could be potentially at risk, even if all blood is tested. But that same logic holds true to heterosexual people as well,” he said.
That said, both health experts say some caution should be installed. Just, they would prefer behavioral questions be asked instead of suspicion based on sexual orientation.
“Questions like, have you engaged with any unprotected sexual practices in the last, you know, three months?” said Wells. “If they have, then they’re excluded from donating blood, because they’re going to be in a high-risk group.”
Blood donation has been a battle for MSM throughout the entire world. The United States currently maintains the one year deferral period between when MSM can engage in sex and donate blood.
Meanwhile, other areas like Northern Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Wales, and now Canada have all lowered their deferral periods in the past few years. Of course, most still establish a year-long wait or a few months worth of celibacy.
Because of these celibacy rules, many tv shows like Will & Grace and celebrities like Lance Bass have protested the rules. One group of activists even created t-shirts by printing the blood of gay men and gave the money to charity.