However, the new Canadian Blood Services donation policy approved Wednesday will still include restrictions. Gay men will only be allowed to donate blood if they have abstained from having sex with another man for five years prior to their donation.
In recent years, several other countries have amended their blood donation policies to allow gay men to give blood, many of which use a smaller window of deferral for sexually active gay men than Canada has adopted. Both Australia and the U.K., for example, allow gay men who have abstained from sex with another man for one year to donate, while South Africa requires only a six-month period.
In the United States, however, a lifetime ban remains in place.
Though the policy change still discriminates against gay men who are sexually active, agency executives told Metro News the change could pave the way for gay men to fully integrate into Canada's pool of blood donors in the future. “The message to them today is to simply bear with us,” said Dana Devine, vice president of medical, scientific, and research affairs at Canadian Blood Services. "We just aren’t quite there yet.”
Metro News notes that the ban had been initiated in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic, as HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions, and at the time blood products could not be screened for the virus, as they are now.
However, several health activists argue that the policy change does little to alleviate the stigmatization of gay men and say the policy should instead focus on screening out high-risk donors of all sexual orientations.