Every day the nation’s leading health experts and political figures speak to the evolving best practices and policies surrounding COVID-19. This dedication to transparency, flexibility and evidence-based decision making is commendable.
These values, however, should be practiced in all health care matters – including when reassessing the discriminatory blood donation deferral policy, or “blood ban” as it’s known.
Regardless of COVID-19’s impact on the blood supply, the blood ban encourages stigma and ignorance around queer men’s and trans people’s health, and also undermines Canada’s supply year-round. For instance, our 2018 Sex Now Survey found that 90 per cent of queer men in Canada would donate blood if they were able to.
To help inform Canadians on this important issue, we’re releasing our newest policy paper, Ending the Discriminatory Blood Ban: A Safe, More Inclusive Blood Supply. The paper makes the case for a gender-neutral donor screening process – deferring potential donors based on their practices, not their sex assigned at birth, their sexual orientation or the gender or sex of their partners.
The paper also calls on the federal government, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to conduct public education campaigns dispelling stereotypes created by these blood bans, and to create a dialogue with communities that have been negatively impacted by such stereotypes – such as African and other Black communities, in addition to LGBT2Q+ people.
This work builds on CBRC’s ongoing calls to end the ban, as well as our efforts to hold the government accountable to their own campaign promise (which provided $3 million in research funding to be distributed by Canadian Blood Services). CBRC continues our ongoing collaborations as a leading partner on several of these research projects to find an evidence-based solution to this deeply entrenched problem.
The unprecedented steps taken by government and other officials during COVID-19 demonstrate that Canada’s heath care system can respond to new data and current realities. It’s time to have those same open and transparent conversations about our community’s blood and educate the public on harmful myths and stereotypes that the blood ban reinforces.