May 22, 2013

Toronto: Early this morning Canadian Blood Services (CBS) received approval from Health Canada to reduce the current men who have sex with men (MSM) deferral period from indefinite to five years from last MSM activity. While this move represents important progress in addressing one of Canada’s few remaining overtly discriminatory policies, it fails to fully correct the problem.

Egale Canada has been actively lobbying to correct this discriminatory policy for decades, at the negotiating table, in the streets and in the courts. Most recently we have engaged with CBS as part of their MSM deferral policy working group. The MSM deferral policy arose out of the fear and scientific ignorance that predominated during the tragic AIDS epidemic and the associated tainted blood crisis of the 1980s. However, with the development of the extremely accurate nucleic acid test for HIV screening (window period of 14 – 17 days) any deferral policy is based entirely on outdated science and irrational fear rather than scientific evidence.

As Helen Kennedy, Egale Canada’s Executive Director puts it, “Any identity-based deferral is fundamentally opposed to the Canadian values of equality and non-discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. A 5-year deferral period for MSM is no less discriminatory than an indefinite deferral. It’s time to acknowledge that a person’s identity doesn’t put them at any greater risk for a sexually transmitted disease, rather, it is their behavior that determines their risk. This self-evident truth should make its way into the blood donor screening process. Ultimately, Egale Canada advocates for a move to behaviour-based screening.”

Gender-neutral, behaviour-based screening methods have the potential to be more precise, more effective, to enable more individuals to donate blood and to actually reduce the risk of transfusion-based infections of existing and emerging pathogens. “We call on the Canadian Government and Health Canada to invest more money into researching behaviour-based deferral options to maintain Canada’s reputation as a global leader in both human rights and the provision of safe and innovative blood products.” says Kennedy.

Egale Canada remains committed to the ideal of a country that is free from all forms of discrimination and in which LGBTQ individuals enjoy the same rights and privileges as heterosexual Canadians.

Egale Canada is Canada’s LGBT human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education, and justice.


For more information:
Helen Kennedy, Egale Canada, 416-270-1999/416-964-7887 ext. 21