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Gay MP boldly confronts health minister over failure to end queer blood ban: ‘Does she not feel comfortable taking my blood?’

Emma Powys Maurice November 27, 2020
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Canadian MP Eric Duncan took the health minister to task on the ongoing blood ban (Twitter/@EricDuncanSDSG)

There were heated scenes in Canada’s parliament as the country’s first out gay Conservative MP Eric Duncan confronted the Liberal health minister on the gay and bisexual blood ban.

Like many countries, Canada’s ban on blood donations from sexually active gay and bisexual men stems from the stigmas of the AIDS crisis, with advocates arguing that such restrictions are redundant and discriminatory.

Canada’s Liberal party promised to end the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in 2015 and 2019. Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday (26 November), Eric Duncan repeatedly pressed minister Patty Hajdu on her failure to do so.

“She promised to end it, it was in the Liberal party platform… she needs to put her words into action,” he said. “Why is the minister breaking her promise she made to gay men five years ago and counting?”

When Hajdu dodged the question, pointing to ongoing work to end the blood ban, Duncan directly challenged her: “Minister, would you take my blood?”

There followed an awkward, empty silence as the minister briefly faltered before insisting that her party had done more for LGBT+ rights than “any party before it”.

But the MP refused to let the question go, and repeated it a second and third time: “She’s the one that can act, she’s the one that can deliver, she’s the one that can put an end to this. Does she not feel comfortable, from me as a gay man, taking my blood?”

Eric Duncan tells Patty Hajdu: ‘This is not funny.’

With a slight smirk on her face, Patty Hajdu merely replied that she supported changing the law and would continue pressing Canada’s blood agencies to end the ban.

“This is not funny,” Eric Duncan warned, “and this is not what she promised to gay men, to end the stigma, over five years ago.”

He pointed out that there is an easy solution that is endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association and the All Blood is Equal Association – a system of individualised risk assessments based on sexual behaviour, rather than sexual orientation.

This method, which could open up thousands of potential donors, is already used in Italy, Spain and Portugal and is under consideration in the UK.

“She knows it’s safe, she knows it’s the right thing to do,” the MP urged.

Hajdu said as soon as the blood agencies submit their recommendations on how to end the ban, they will be reviewed and changes will be made.

Related topics: blood ban, blood donation, Canada, HIV/AIDS

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