Think About “Dont-nating” Your Blood

by Robbie Romu on May 25, 2013

blood-transfusion-2“Don’t drink the water
There’s blood in the water”
  Dave Matthews Band

So, Health Canada has given the green light to Canadian Blood Services to lift their lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. Finally! This policy, first introduced by the Red Cross in the mid 80’s during the early years of the AIDS crisis, was archaic and discriminatory and its undoing should be lauded…

Pardon me?

The lifetime ban is being replaced by a new policy? Gay men are now allowed to donate blood as long as they haven’t had sex with another man for 5 years prior to donation? Are you fucking kidding me?

Thanks but no thanks.

A pig in a bonnet is still a pig and the same goes for discrimination. There are no “degrees of discrimination” or “shades of bigotry” – there is only right and wrong.

I have been in a long term, monogamous relationship with a man for 10 years. The simple fact that we’ve had sex at some point in the last 5 of them precluding either one of us from donating blood makes my blood boil. It is wrong. It is not OK.

This revision in policy does nothing to address the real issues, in fact, I would argue, it creates a multitude of new ones. The most glaringly obvious one being, how will this be policed? You would think, when it comes to protecting something as vital as Canada’s blood supply, “I’ll take your word for it” or “this guy looks honest” are not adequate safety measures.

What Health Canada (and similar agencies around the globe) fail to realize is that their blatantly discriminatory practices hurt them on many different levels. Not only are gay men, a socially conscious group if ever there was one, unable to donate, but many heterosexuals, off-put by injustice are choosing not to donate as well.  As a “mostly straight” female friend recently told me, “Why would I support an organization that marginalizes people based on their sexuality? Isn’t this the sort of crap we’re trying to change?”

According to the Canadian Blood Services own website all donated blood is already tested for “HIV 1 and 2 (the viruses that cause AIDS)” and a multitude of other potential risk factors. The screening process is already in place. If the blood is already tested for HIV then what exactly is the issue? Chile, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Uruguay and Spain have no ban against gay men donating blood and their country’s blood supplies are deemed safe.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … 99% of the time, it’s a duck.

“A five-year ban on the ability for gay men to donate blood is not science-based and is still just as discriminatory as a lifetime ban,” health critic Libby Davies and Randall Garrison, critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer issues, said in a statement.

I could not agree more.

STI’s (sexually transmitted infections), including HIV, are transmitted by careless people, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. The issue needs to be about donor’s behavior and screening of high-risk donors, not sexuality.

When Dana Devine, vice-president of medical, scientific and research affairs at Canadian Blood Services, says this new policy change is an effort to incorporate gay men into the donation community, and adds, “The message to them today is to simply bear with us,” it makes me want to cringe. When she then says, “We are working toward attempting to make the opportunity for additional people to donate blood… and we just aren’t quite there yet for that group of people,” it makes me want to throw her off a bridge.

Can people really not see the message Canadian Blood Services is sending?

“That group of people” is fed up with bigotry and hatred. “That group of people” is not worth less than any other group of people. “That group of people” is soon enough going to refuse to move to the back of the bus…

 I, for one, cannot wait.

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