September 29, 2020

BY ASHLEY KOWITZ

After 30 years, Canada finally lifted its ban on gay men donating blood. For a moment you may rejoice. It’s a step in the right direction you may say.

Or is it?

The ban may have been lifted, however, there’s a new rule in place. Men must abstain from sexual relations with a man for five years. This is a rule that most say is discrimination. It’s a rule that needs to be changed.

Yes, HIV is still more likely to be passed through men who have sex with men.  In 2011, the Public Health Agency of Canada released a report that estimated 46.7 per cent of those who were living with HIV were men who engaged in sexual intercourse with other men. The report also shows that 17.9 per cent contracted the virus through heterosexual contact.

However, it doesn’t take five years for HIV to be detectable. According to research, HIV will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks of sexual contact. In even the rarest cases, it takes only six months for them to become detectable.

In light of those facts it just makes a lot of us wonder why the wait times are so long. And the questions don’t stop there.

What about men who only practice safe sex when engaging in sexual intercourse with other men? The five-year rule still applies to them.

What about men who have been in a monogamous relationship for countless years with another man? The same restrictions apply to those who have been with the same partner regardless of the number of years they have been monogamous. They are not able to give blood until they abstain.

Of course, to pass the questionnaire men could just lie. It’s as simple as that. But that’s not the point. They shouldn’t have to lie. They should have the same rights as everyone else.

The rule is absurd and needs to be changed. Keeping the risk of HIV in mind should apply to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The United States still hasn’t removed their ban on gay men donating blood. However, Britain and Australia have changed their rules to allow men who haven’t had sex with another man in a year to donate blood.

Canadian Blood Services knows that people find this rule ridiculous. The vice-president of medical, scientific and research affairs at the organization has been quoted many times saying that she is aware the rule change is unpopular. She says that this is a step forward and over time it will be reviewed again.

Come on, Canadian Blood Services. This isn’t the ’80s. You need to step it up and join the rest of Canadians in 2013.

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