Canadian Blood Services still saying no to sexually active gay men

We’ve all heard the expression, “Blood. It’s in you to give,” but Canadian Blood Services’ policies imply that it’s not for Karl Justus, 23, or any gay man who is sexually active for that matter.

After trying to donate blood because of the shortage in Calgary, Justus was told he couldn’t give blood because of the sole fact that he is gay.

Gay men have been denied the right to donate blood since 1983, but Justus says it’s ridiculous that, in this day and age, gay men are still being turned down to donate their blood.

Justus admits that before he went to donate blood, he was unaware of the policies and rules regarding who can donate their blood and who can’t and that there was a ban on gay men being allowed to donate.

“A lot of my gay friends were surprised by the fact that I didn’t know that you weren’t able to donate blood. Apparently this is common knowledge and a lot of people have experienced it before, but I had absolutely no idea,” says Justus.

Chris Chan, former Mount Royal University Pride Centre volunteer, feels the same way towards blood donations. He thinks that gay men are still being discriminated against when it comes to donating blood is uncalled for.

“It’s 2013. I mean, do we still have these stigmas? Are we really giving out the message that heterosexual people are not at risk for HIV? Blood should always be tested anyways,” says Chan.

Currently, Health Canada doesn’t allow any gay man to donate blood if they have ever had sex with a male partner, but Canadian Blood Services is looking to change that.

Deb Steele-Kretschmer from Canadian Blood Services told The Calgary Journal in February that Canadian Blood Services submitted a policy change to Health Canada to amend the life ban to five years.

“Five years is not ideal, but it’s an incremental change,” said Steele-Kretschmer.

Health Canada did not comment on the policy by press time.

Even though some like Justus would argue that it’s not fair that gay men are being singled out and stereotyped to being the only ones with the ability to carry or contract HIV or AIDS, Canadian Blood Services still says it’s not a good idea to lift the ban yet.

“What really bothers me is that countries like Australia and the U.K., I believe, have been allowing gay men to donate blood. Why not Canada? What is the difference?” says Justus.

ldedora@cjounral.ca