For decades, gay and bisexual men across Canada have been living with the sense that they have tainted blood running through their veins. That’s because, since 1983, one year after Canada’s first reported AIDS diagnosis, Health Canada has banned blood donations from men who have sex with men.

Why the ban? Because the Canadian blood services said that men having sex with men experience higher rates of HIV. This isn’t true: in 2011 it was reported that only 48.6 percent of positive reports of HIV came from gay men.

It wasn’t until 2013 when the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men was lifted, but they had to not have sex with another man for 5 years. That was lowered in 2019 to 3 months….It’s now 2020 and there is a test that can detect HIV in blood within 9 days. No one should donate blood without that test, to begin with, no matter what their sexual orientation is.

This discrimination isn’t just affecting gay and bisexual men but also victims that could use that blood. Only 4% of eligible Canadians donate blood, and that was before COVID-19. It’s even lower now, and the need for blood didn’t stop just because of COVID-19. We are in desperate need of blood and we can only store blood for 42 days!

Every 60 seconds, someone else needs blood. Our government’s inaction to lift this ban can cost someone their life. A-negative blood is one of the rarer blood types — only 6% of Canadians share this blood type and our government’s discrimination against gay and bisexual men makes its availability even scarcer.

It’s time to lift the ban on gay and bisexual men, so more Canadians can donate blood. This discriminatory ban doesn’t help anyone, it’s just bigotry that can cost someone their life.

While changing policy and implementing such changes in the field are logistically challenging, the COVID-19 pandemic is asking our government to step up and revise regulations that no longer serve the greater good. I’m not advocating for relaxing standards that would compromise the safety of our blood supply. Instead, I’m advocating for scientifically-driven standards that uphold the utmost safety of the blood supply and simultaneously promote equity and reverse historical discrimination in blood donation.

Getting rid of the 3 months deferral shouldn’t be an issue in any future election because it should be scrapped this month. All parties should support this since it helps people, and it’s scientifically proven that bisexual and gay men don’t have higher chances of carrying HIV. So, what is our government waiting for, another election to go by while they say that they will scrap this ban? Come on, put your egos aside and do what’s right for this country; break this barrier so gay and bisexual men’s blood donations can save lives.

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