Canadian Blood Services lifted its lifetime ban on gay men giving blood.
It was a ban that was instituted almost three decades ago, a time when AIDS was coming to light and a time when many considered the disease, which most knew nothing about, a gay man’s disease.
The new policy that Canadian Blood Services hopes to have in place by mid-summer, will allow men to donate blood if they haven’t had sex with another man for five years.
The agency is calling the removal of the lifetime ban and the introduction of this stipulation the first step in what it hopes will be continued efforts to incorporate gay men in this country in the blood-donation process.
It’s a change said to have been in the works for several years, at a time when hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on AIDS research and, thanks to advances in treatment, more and more people are living full and long lives with HIV and AIDS.
The atmosphere today is far from what it was three decades ago when doors were closed to those with the disease, with even some hospitals and physicians in Canada and elsewhere going as far as to refuse to care for those with HIV and AIDs.
We have, indeed, come a long way when it comes to our perception and knowledge of the disease that can be transmitted via blood and through sexual intercourse.
But we still have a ways to go. And that’s abundantly clear in the stipulation by Canadian Blood Services that gay men must be abstinent five years in order to give the gift that saves lives.
That stipulation is archaic and discriminatory.
Do heterosexual men or women have to abstain from sex for five years in order to give blood? The answer is no.
In fact, gay men make up for less than half of Canadians with HIV.
The lifetime ban against donations by gay men was instituted in the mid 1980s by the Red Cross, which, then, was responsible for this country’s blood supply. Similar bans were put in place in other countries and since have been lifted with far less restrictive stipulations in place.
Since, all blood donated is tested for HIV.
In Britain and the United States gay men who haven’t had sex with other men for at least a year can donate. In South Africa, where the disease is believed to have originated, that time period is six months.
Canada has a long way to go to catch up with the times.