News / Edmonton

'It’s disappointing': Edmonton professor frustrated with Liberals slow progress on blood ban

The federal Liberals campaigned in 2015 to end the gay blood donation ban, but so far have only moved it to a one-year ban.

Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta.

Courtesy / University of Alberta

Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta.

A local LGBTQ expert and advocate says the Liberal government hasn’t kept their promise to change donation criteria for men who have sex with men.

Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, says it’s frustrating to hear about the consistent blood shortage in Canada, when willing donors in the LGBTQ community are being refused.

“It’s one of the Liberal government’s key failures, this blood debacle. Canada is seen as a world leader on human rights issues ... But it’s moving far too slowly on eliminating the donor eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men (MSM),” says Wells.

Wells points to other countries (several in Europe among them) that have removed all bans, relying instead on behavior-screening questionnaires, regardless of gender.

While the Liberals campaigned in 2015 to end the gay blood donation ban, there was no change in policy until June of 2016, when it was moved from a five-year to one-year ban.

Now 18 months on, Canadian Blood Services is supporting 11 research projects investigating various aspects of blood and plasma donor eligibility criteria and the screening process.

The goal, according to CBS communications specialist Ross FitzGerald, is to generate adequate evidence to lead to alternative screening approaches for donors, which could evolve the current eligibility criteria for MSM.

But Wells isn’t buying it.

“The availability of technology means all blood is screened. This policy is transphobic, homophobic and confusing,” he said. "It’s disappointing that it’s taking so long to move this important work forward.”

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