On May 9, 2019, Canada’s Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced a new deferral policy for blood donations from men who have sex with men, effectively reducing the deferral time from one year to three months. This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), Canada’s unions are calling for an end to discriminatory policies which perpetuate homophobic and transphobic stereotypes and stigma.
“The deferral from one year to three months, while an important step forward, nonetheless continues to perpetuate the homophobic and unscientific concept that the blood of men who have sex with men is somehow unsafe and unfit for donation,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “Furthermore, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) also discriminates against trans people by applying similar deferrals of blood donation if they are screened as ‘men who have sex with men’, irrespective of their gender identity.”
Deferral policies for blood donations from ‘men who have sex with men’ first began as a fear-based response to the tragic AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove that blood deferrals on the basis of sexuality or gender identity can reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases in blood donations. Therefore, these policies rely on unfounded and discriminatory stereotypes about ‘men who have sex with men’.
The CLC joins calls for CBS to develop and enforce blood donation policies that are evidence and behaviour based, and that do not target one specific aspect of a donor’s identity.
“CBS should review all blood donations based on gender-neutral and behaviour-based screening,” said Larry Rousseau. “It’s time to end a blood ban based on fear and negative stereotypes about men who have sex with men.”
The IDAHOT is held on May 17th every year since 2004. You can learn more about IDAHOT here.