REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
Giving blood is a way to save lives and that is a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the well-being of many of our families, friends and neighbours. Well, not all of us have that opportunity. I have been vocal about this issue many times over the years and it needs attention again and again.
We contribute in many ways, giving to organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart Foundation, raising monies for research in all manner of illnesses, including mental disabilities, the list is endless. As Canadians we enjoy a wonderful reputation as givers and being a concerned society. However, it is not inclusive by any means.
For many years gay men have been barred from donating blood. The HIV/AIDS crisis during those years made the medical community rethink donations from men having sex with men, as this was thought to be a “gay” disease and remains so to this day without thought as to how this affects that segment of the population. HIV/AIDS affects all humankind and not gay men only. As a matter of interest, young teens, older folks, gay or straight, are affected by this disease.
The question remains that if that is so, why are members of these groups not banned from donating blood? If this is indeed the case then it becomes a matter of homophobia and blatant discrimination. It is also possible that not all blood donations are screened, making the case that regardless of who donates blood, a conclusion is not possible.
Canadian Blood Services announced earlier that instead of waiting a lifetime to be able to make donations for a gay man, it is now five years. That ludicrous rule does absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. As a gay man, I cannot give blood to save the life of someone, not even my own child. However, another person who has not been tested, or declines to be truthful will give blood. What happens to this donation? Does each donation go through a screening process? Apparently each donation is tested extremely carefully, according to a spokesperson.
I view this regulation as a hit against the gay community and needs urgent attention. This is a case of a discriminatory practice against the gay community. Next week I will address the organ donation issue. Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.