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End the Blood Ban

CBS and Héma-Quebec screen for high-risk sexual behaviours. FALSE.

There are specific high-risk behaviors for infection of blood-born illnesses that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation or gender. What lower body parts a person has does not dictate the kind of sex that they have.

Gay men are more likely to be HIV-positive and not know. FALSE.

In Canada, men who have sex with men account for just over half of all people living with HIV, but people exposed through heterosexual sex are most likely to be unaware of their HIV infection. Screening questions should ask about high-risk behaviour, not about your gender or sexual identity, to account for all possible infectious blood diseases.

The ban does not harm anyone. FALSE.

Canada has a blood shortage crisis. We need more donors. The ban prevents many people from donating who do not engage in high-risk behaviors, unnecessarily lowering the pool of applicants.

The ban also harms the people that it discriminates against, and all LGBTQ people in Canada. By having questions that screen applicants based on identity (i.e. men who have sex with men) instead of specific high risk behaviours, CBS and Héma-Quebec perpetuate stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. 

Ending the ban will put people at risk. FALSE.

Unifor is not advocating for a change in policies that put anyone at risk. The current policy does not take into account the significant progress in screening tests that can now detect new HIV/AIDS infections within nine days of exposure. Every blood sample is tested.

Changing the screening questions to be behaviour-based could actually strengthen the screening process, as all donors would be asked the same questions about specific high-risk sexual behaviours, instead of CBS and Héma-Quebec assuming how they are having sex based on a potential donor’s sexual and gender identity.

CBS and the government both agree. In a June 2016 media statement, the agency already said that it is, “exploring the possibility of moving toward behaviour-based screening.”[i] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran on a platform that included a promise to end discrimination in blood donation.

The move from a lifetime ban, to a 5-year deferral period did not cause any change in the safety of the blood or an increase in donating blood testing positive for blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS.

Despite all of this, there is no end in sight to the blood ban.