Humber and the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) are hosting a blood drive on March 21 and Humber students are being encouraged to give blood and save lives; at least most of them are. A large portion of males in the LGBTQ community are excluded from this clinic and every other clinic in Canada.
The men of the LGBTQ community and blood donation clinics have a complicated history to say the least. The government has harsh restrictions for donating blood as a gay man. From 1977 to as late as 2013 gay men were not allowed to donate blood. After 2013 the restrictions were lessened and in 2016 they were lessened even further. As of 2016 gay men are not allowed to give blood if they have had sex with a man within the last year.
Many in the LGBTQ community as well as many in the general public believe that these laws are outdated and homophobic. The laws were first put into place during the HIV outbreak in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s; in a panicked response the Canadian government banned gay men from giving blood.
Geof Campbell is one of the Humber students who are going to be excluded from the drive. Geoff has given blood several times in the past, but due to the government’s restrictions he’s no longer able to donate.
“I don’t really get it. I’ve given blood lots of times, and just because I had sex recently I can’t do it. It’s not like you can’t get AIDS [or] HIV as a straight man or woman.”
HIV is the main factor behind many of these restrictions, and there has been an increase of cases of HIV in Canada. From 2011 to 2014 there was an increase of HIV cases of around 9.7%. That being said 27% of these new cases are women, and women now make up 20% of HIV patients.
There also hasn’t been a single case of HIV contraction via blood transfusion in Canada since 1985. Some doctors and government officials say that is a direct result of the wait period for homosexual blood donors.
Aidan Shaw, a member of the LGBTQ community, said that, “It’s not fair. There isn’t this kind of screening for any other kind of blood disease; and besides, when’s the last time someone got AIDS from a blood bag. Honestly, I just think it’s homophobia disguised as safety precautions…”
Even though Canadians desperately need blood donations, the CBS continues to enforce strict restrictions on gay men. This includes the events that transpired last August: Canada’s blood supply became critically low, which nearly led to a crisis. Despite all of this, the CBS and the Canadian government have no intentions of changing the restrictions against gay men who want to donate blood.