2 min

Finally, acceptance

Gay men banned from sperm & blood donations, but death redeems them

EQUALITY. Ontario accepts the organs from everybody once they've kicked the bucket. Credit: Xtra files

Gay men can’t donate blood or sperm when they’re alive, but the provincial government is only too happy to accept the organs of gay men once they’re dead.

“There’s no problem with that whatsoever,” John Letherby of the Ontario Ministry Of Health says of gay men donating their organs after they die.

The provincial government wants to double the rate of organ donation by 2005 and Letherby encourages gay men to sign the organ donor cards on their driver’s licence.

“The only restriction is in checking for disease.”

Checking for disease is done “across the board,” says Letherby, “regardless of sexual orientation or preference.”

People with cancer are allowed to donate their organs, depending on the stage the cancer is at and where it is located in the body, says Letherby.

Potential organ donors are also examined for STDs and, yes, AIDS.

The federal government regulates artifical insemination and refuses the sperm of gay men.

The pre-screening process, such as the one on the sperm donor application form at Toronto’s east-end fertility clinic ReproMed, simply asks, “Have you ever had sex with a man, even once, since 1977?”

“The intention is to eliminate risk,” Health Canada representative Andrew Smith says. “Individuals in certain high-risk categories have an increased risk of transmitting HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases.”

And Smith adds: “This is generally accepted around the world, it’s not just something Canada is doing.” Gay men are in the same classification as injection drug users or anyone who has had sex in exchange for sex or drugs.

“Pre-screening sperm donors make sense. No one is going to get very far in arguing that no limits should be placed on who gets to give and who does not,” says Mathieu Chantelois, an actor on Life Network’s U8TV.

But he says there’s a limit. Chantelois has created a web petition protesting Health Canada’s sperm policy. He says he’s collected some 7,000 names so far. “The sperm bank refused my sperm not because I’m HIV-positive. They refused my sperm because I’m gay and want to give sperm. That’s homophobia.”

Any man who answers yes to a similar sex-since-1977 question is also banned from giving blood.

The argument is that HIV can take up to three months – in rare cases, allegedly longer – before it shows up during screening tests. Those in charge of screening also worry that their tests might not be perfect, and that they’ll miss someone who’s infected with HIV.