UPDATE: Cornwall man calls out blood services over policies concerning homosexual men

Published on August 26, 2014
Guy St-Jean

CORNWALL, Ontario - A Cornwall man who would love to donate blood at the looming mayor-media clinic said Tuesday it's time for the agency responsible for collection to get with the times.

Guy St-Jean said because he is gay, and has been in a long-term relationship with his partner, he is barred from donating blood.

Indeed, Canadian Blood Services allows gay men to donate blood, but only if they haven't had sex with another man for five years dating back from the time of the donation.

St-Jean said the policy, which was modified just last year after completely barring gay men from donating blood, reeks of discrimination.

"We are all too familiar that a sexually-active gay male has been denied the right to donate blood based on stereotypes, discrimination, and fear," said St-Jean. "It is time to look at the current state of HIV research and allow reason to lead Canadian Blood Services into allowing gay men the right to donate blood."

St-Jean pointed to next week's popular Mayor-Media Blood Donor Clinic in Cornwall as an event he would very much like to participate in.

"But Canadian Blood Services will not allow me to donate," he said. "The best way any community could help out the relief efforts is to volunteer time, money and blood. As a gay male, it is easy to donate time or money; however, the last one is an issue all on its own."

The 2013 policy change allowing gay men to donate had been in the works for several years and involved consultation with groups representing would-be donors as well as hemophiliacs who rely on blood transfusions and those who could be harmed if screening systems aren't adequate to keep pathogens out of the blood supply.

The lifetime ban against donations by gay men was implemented in the 1980s when fear the fear of HIV/AIDS infection was rampant.

At the time blood collection was under the auspices of the Canadian Red Cross.

Canadian Blood Service has been under pressure since partially lifting the ban to complete the process and allow gay men to donate without asking about their abstinence.

Dr. Mindy Goldman, director of medical donations and transplantation with Canadian Blood Services, said the agency will re-examine its policies in the next year or so to determine if changes need to be made.

"We see this as the first step toward ongoing change," she said. "Change has to happen slowly ...to make sure we don't jeopardize recipient safety."

Of the new cases of HIV in Canada, Goldman said as much as 45 per cent comes as a result of male-to-male sexual activity, driving up concern about that particular group of donors.

Mayor Bob Kilger declined to wade into the debate, citing a lack of understanding of the specific policies.

"I'm not familiar with the policies of Canadian Blood Services," he said. "I'm respectful of Mr. St-Jean's views and I would welcome further information on the subject."

The mayor-media clinic runs from noon to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the salons at the civic complex Sept. 2.