In the 1980s Health Canada instated a policy which banned any man who has ever had sex with another man since 1977, even once, from donating blood for life.
Although in early 2013 Canadian Blood Services shortened the ban to five years of abstinence, activists still contend that any ban on queer men originates from homophobia.
In 1977 HIV began to rapidly spread across North America. In 1985 the first known case of tranfusion related HIV was reported. This marked the start of a crisis in the Canadian Red Cross, who were in charge of blood services in Canada. The blood had been tainted by the HIV virus and thousands were already infected. The Red Cross was slow to react and take precautions. In 1988, the Red Cross instituted a lifetime ban on all men who have had sex with men since 1977. If anyone checked yes to that question, their blood would not be used, regardless of their sexuality, relationship status or years of abstinence since.
As HIV related deaths were on the rise, queers were used as scapegoats for the problem. The Red Cross created a homophobic policy to quell fears and use gay men specifically as scapegoats.
In 1993 a House of Commons sub committee called for a public inquiry. This resulted in report, reccomending a new body to over see all blood testing, unaffected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadian Blood Services was created.
On September 28, 2009 Kyle Freeman`s trial against Canadian Blood Services (CBS) began. Freeman, a gay man and then York University student, donated blood multiple times by lying on the CBS questionnaire about his sexuality.
When Freeman anonymously posted online about doing so, CBS investigated, tracked his comments and sued him for intentionally violating policy. About a year later, the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of CBS, despite policies in other countries that impose effective one year bans against men who have sex with men. These are supported by the American Red Cross and American Blood Centres.
Currently Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec have rigorous screening that blood must undergo for various diseases. Every unit of blood is chemically tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C and other infections.
The blood ban judges sexually active gay and bisexual men by looking only at who they have sex with and not whether or not they practice safe sex or have sex with a long term monogamous same sex partner. It also plays into myths about HIV infection rates. In Canada, the populations with the highest HIV rate infection are injection drug users and heterosexuals. In December 2008, Health Canada created another policy, banning gay men from donating their organs. Ending the Ban is still an issue, even today.
Even though men who have sex with men can donate blood in Canada after five years of abstinence, the policy is critiqued as only a small step forward.
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