Canadian Blood Services has proposed lifting the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men.
But the New Democrats argue the organization's submitted solution, which would allow men who have abstained from sex with men for at least five years to donate, would still discriminate against gay men.
"New Democrats believe that criteria for donating blood for all Canadians should be developed on a behavior based model. The screening process for blood donation would be much safer overall in reducing the risk of transmission of blood borne diseases by focusing on each individuals’ behavior rather than their sexual identity," NDP MPs Libby Davies and Randall Garrison said in a statement posted online today (January 22).
"While this request from Canadian Blood Services is a step in the right direction, it continues to discriminate against a specific group of people. 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."
In December 2012, Canadian Blood Services—along with Héma-Québec, its Quebec counterpart—recommended that Health Canada reduce the "lifetime deferral of MSM donors to a time-bound deferral of 5 years".
If Health Canada approves the proposal, the change could be put in place as early as the summer, according to a statement on the Canadian Blood Services website.
"We see this change as a first and prudent step in incremental change on this policy. It will be reviewed in the near future as additional data emerge and new technologies are implemented," Canadian Blood Services states.
Canadian Blood Services' donor questionnaire asks: "Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?" The current ban was introduced in 1988 by the Canadian Red Cross, which used to run the country's blood services.
In a July 2012 letter posted on the Canadian Blood Services site, Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy urged Health Canada to "favorably consider" a five-year ban even though it is "no less discriminatory than an indefinite deferral".
"While this move represents important progress in addressing one of Canada’s few remaining overtly discriminatory policies, it fails to fully correct the problem," Kennedy wrote to Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq.