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

Kristen Lipscombe, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - 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“The gay blood ban is an outdated and misinformed policy,” he scribbled in blue and yellow chalk on the sidewalk outside of the Halifax Public Library, as part of an education initiative held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: Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Blood Services, Halifax Public Library University of King Health Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Antigonish, Saint John

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  • 80's are good
    July 23, 2014 - 06:28

    Hey Sean your the one that decided to choose your own path, the Canadian Blood Services is fine the way it is.

    • Save the apostrophe!
      July 23, 2014 - 09:53

      Whether it's the subject of this piece, Sean, or its author Kristen: Congratulations on the correct use of the apostrophe!! A properly placed apostrophe is increasingly rare in today's print media (and even more so amongst Transcontinental many small dailies). @ Mr. or Ms. " 80's " : In addition to perhaps unlearning your bigotry, you might also want to take note that the apostrophe can NEVER be used to make something plural. It can, however, be used to shorten something. In this case, the correct short form of the collective noun describing the years between 1979 and 1990 is "the '80s " The apostrophe goes in front substituting for the number 19. An apostrophe afterward indicates possession. As in, something belonging to the number 80...which makes about as much sense as your homophobic comment.

  • Robert
    July 23, 2014 - 01:04

    So... if you, or a loved one, is ever in an accident and they tell you due to lack of donated blood... there's nothing they can do to help you, you're going to say "Whew! Thank goodness gay men weren't allowed to donate! I dodged that bullet!!"? Doubtful. Don't play with other peoples lives just because you're afraid of gay men.

  • wingman
    July 22, 2014 - 19:30

    They should leave it just the way it is period.

    • progressive
      July 22, 2014 - 23:44

      Wingman, you and blood services need to join the rest of us in the 21st century, not the 19th.

    • 80's are good
      July 23, 2014 - 08:28

      hey progressive were all in the 21st century all blood services are trying to do is protect the public from a certain group of people that are fact based proven to be at high risk of hiv. being the 21st century and all if this situation was reversed the topic would of never came up. correct?