‘It’s stuck in the 80s:’ Halifax students protest blood-donating ban for gay men

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For 20-year-old Sean MacIsaac, knowing he would have to abstain from having sex with other men for five years before donating blood is a “belittling” reality.

Sean MacIssac finishes up a section of a chalk protest at the Halifax Public Library.

“The gay blood ban is an outdated and misinformed policy,” he scribbled in blue and yellow chalk on the sidewalk outside of the Halifax Public Library, as part of an education initiative held Monday by the Nova Scotia arm of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“People need blood transfusions,” the third-year University of King’s College student from Antigonish said. “To put a blanket over all gay men and say, ‘You can’t donate,’ is a big waste.”

“It’s stuck in the 80s,” MacIsaac said of the Canadian Blood Services regulation. “It’s a huge stereotype that gay men all of HIV.”

Provincial Canadian Federation of Students chair Anna Dubinski agreed the policy makes “judgments on folks based on their identity, as opposed to their actions.”

End the Blood Ban is a national campaign that was scheduled this week during pride festivities. The federation invited passersby to sign their names inside outlines of blood droplets drawn on the pavement, or to add their own artwork to the colourful collage.

Spencer Morris, 14, stopped by and wrote words such as “hope,” “love” and “equality” onto the downtown sidewalk.

Dubinski explained Health Canada last year did approve changing what was a life-long ban on homosexual men giving blood to a “ five-year deferral period.”

Canadian Blood Services spokeswoman Michelle Thibodeau Coates said Monday the not-for-profit group is “hearing all voices.”

“It all needs to be based on scientific evidence,” she said from Saint John, N.B. “We need to be able to show that no additional risks have been introduced into the system.”

Once that data is collected, she added, Canadian Blood Services will consider “making a change.”

MacIsaac said he would definitely donate blood, if he could. “You could save lives.”

Organizations: Halifax Public Library, Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Blood Services University of King Health Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Antigonish, Saint John

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