Halifax students protest blood-donating ban for gay men

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Sean MacIssac finishes up a section of a chalk protest at the Halifax Public Library.

For 20-year-old Sean MacIsaac, knowing he would have to abstain from having sex with other men for five years before donating blood is a “belittling” reality.

“The gay blood ban is an outdated and misinformed policy,” he scribbled in blue and yellow chalk on the sidewalk outside of the Halifax Public Library, as part of an education initiative held Monday by the Nova Scotia arm of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“People need blood transfusions,” the third-year University of King’s College student from Antigonish said. “To put a blanket over all gay men and say, ‘You can’t donate,’ is a big waste.”

“It’s stuck in the 80s,” MacIsaac said of the Canadian Blood Services regulation. “It’s a huge stereotype that gay men all of HIV.”

Provincial Canadian Federation of Students chair Anna Dubinski agreed the policy makes “judgments on folks based on their identity, as opposed to their actions.”

End the Blood Ban is a national campaign that was scheduled this week during pride festivities. The federation invited passersby to sign their names inside outlines of blood droplets drawn on the pavement, or to add their own artwork to the colourful collage.

Spencer Morris, 14, stopped by and wrote words such as “hope,” “love” and “equality” onto the downtown sidewalk.

Dubinski explained Health Canada last year did approve changing what was a life-long ban on homosexual men giving blood to a “ five-year deferral period.”

Canadian Blood Services spokeswoman Michelle Thibodeau Coates said Monday the not-for-profit group is “hearing all voices.”

“It all needs to be based on scientific evidence,” she said from Saint John, N.B. “We need to be able to show that no additional risks have been introduced into the system.”

Once that data is collected, she added, Canadian Blood Services will consider “making a change.”

MacIsaac said he would definitely donate blood, if he could. “You could save lives.”

Organizations: Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Blood Services, Halifax Public Library University of King Health Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Antigonish, Saint John

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Recent comments

  • fyi
    July 22, 2014 - 15:05

    Someone can be HIV positive and test negative for months after initially being infected. That's why they restrict donations from high risk groups... to minimize risk to receipients. It's still not 100% fail safe.

  • Daniel
    July 22, 2014 - 13:54

    Regardless what the statistics show about high-risk activities for HIV transmission, blood must be screened of infectious disease before it is allowed to be used. Furthermore, HIV stats may over-represent men who have sex with men, but that does not mean heterosexual people who have unprotected sex are not at-risk, too. If anything, a language/mentality change, to usher our asses back into the 21st century, is highly in order: Regardless of who has HIV right now and how, unprotected sex with multiple partners is the de facto activity that puts participants at risk of HIV infection. Why are we therefore still calling it the "gay disease?"

    • fyi
      July 22, 2014 - 15:10

      go to the CDC website and look up the stats on those infected with HIV... you will find the answers to your questions there. It's broken down by male homosexual, iv drug users, promiscuous heterosexual, etc. They don't just ban gay men from donating. They also ban iv drug users, prostitutes, people who have travelled to high risk countries, etc, because they are severely high risk groups. Gay men are the highest risk, unfortunately.

  • mike
    July 22, 2014 - 12:56

    Even if male to male sexual contact is a high risk. they are supposed to screen the blood before use. All blood that is found contaminated is supposed to be tossed and the donor informed. Or is this still the red cross days where they decided not to test and infected thousands of people. Just saying they are supposed to test first so there should be no risk

  • seriously!
    July 22, 2014 - 11:59

    He ought to do a little research on AIDS transmission in the population. He will quickly learn that male to male sexual contact is by a tremendous margin, the highest risk group for contracting AIDS. IV Drug users follow a very distant second place. So, if we allow homosexual males to donate, then we also need to permit IV drug users because they are much lower risk... think about that one!! Scares the heck out of me.

  • reality check
    July 22, 2014 - 11:52

    According to the CDC,as of this date, male to male sexual contact and intravenous drug use remain as the top 2 methods of AIDS transmission. It's time that this young man accepted the reality that his lifestyle/personal habits put him at high risk of contracting AIDS. This is not discrimination or old fashioned attitude. It's a statistically proven fact, and they are trying to protect the population of patients who might have to receive a blood donation.

  • richard
    July 22, 2014 - 11:52

    Considering the investigation, inquiry and finally court cases against Red Cross after the hepatitis issue, not to mention the terrible impact, even DEATH of the people contracting the disease through the blood, I welcome the caution being displayed currently. What good would it be to save A life with a donation, but you kill a batch of people with a virus in the long long term? To claim this policy is out-dated, I would offer that the attitude of 'discrimination ' under every bush is also out dated

  • nitpicker
    July 22, 2014 - 10:05

    If science, not political correctness, backs this up, then go for it.