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Canadian Blood Services apologizes to LGBTQ2 communities for previous donation policy

It’s being called a landmark apology by advocates after Canadian Blood Services acknowledged a previous policy it had in place was discriminatory and homophobic.

The old criteria prevented all sexually active men who have sex with men, and some trans people, from donating blood and plasma.

It asked men during the pre-donation screening process if they’ve had sex with another man.

A new policy went into effect on Sept. 30, 2022, where donors are screened regardless of gender or sexuality, for high-risk sexual behaviours.

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Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, says the old policy reinforced a harmful public perception that someone’s blood is somehow less safe because of their sexual orientation.

“We regret that this policy contributed to discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and HIV stigma within society,” Sher said at an event in Ottawa Friday.

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The old policy was put into place in the 1980s as a safety measure at a time when HIV was still a new disease and research was just beginning to evolve.

Barry Karlenzig, president of Pride Winnipeg says it’s a day to celebrate because it’s finally aligning with the rest of the world, but he says more work needs to be done.

“Removing it to behaviour-based screening is one step, but how does that screening look?” Karlenzig said. “Is it still going to be a check-box where its something where people from the LGBTQ2 communities, their blood is being screened 3 times differently than those who identify as straight?”

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