Health Canada has decided to exclude gay men from donating organs. Here’s a the story.
It’s my understanding that we cannot even give an organ to a friend or relative under Health Canada’s recommendation — though some hospitals are saying they’ll ignore the ban. This joins the ban on gay blood and gay sperm. The sperm ban is particularly disturbing now that current medical and psychiatric science considers homosexuality to be at least partially hereditary.
The worst of it is that there’s no shortage of people in our own community willing to defend the policy, on the grounds that gay men are a high-risk group when it comes to AIDS.
But for all that, putting human rights on the altar of pragmatism — an increasingly popular pastime — won’t even make the blood supply safe. It’s risky sexual activity that health institutions should be screening for, including risky heterosexual behaviour. The question that needs to be asked is, “Have you had penile sex without a condom in the last six months?”
That question will never be asked, though. It can’t be asked, because if it were, the blood and organ supply would dry up.
It’s the elephant in the room when it comes to sex, AIDS, blood, and organs. Most gay men I know practice safe sex even in monogamous relationships. No heterosexual woman I’ve ever discussed sex with did the same — the ones I’ve spoken to about this (obviously not a scientific sample) considered “safe sex” to be “with birth control.” One woman I spoke to online said she’d rather die than question her husband’s fidelity.
And right there is part of the reason why heterosexual women are the fastest-growing demographic of persons with AIDS. Moreover, this is the reason why Health Canada cannot refuse heterosexuals indulging in high-risk sexual behaviour from donating organs or blood.
Given the other option of trying to change the sexual behaviour of heterosexuals, Health Canada has chosen for the much easier route of a purely cosmetic change in policy that rehashes the old stereotype that AIDS is a “gay disease” — not something heterosexuals need to concern themselves with. It gives the supply an appearance of safety, with little thought to the social harm caused by indulging a dangerous stereotype.
It’ll probably take another tainted blood scandal — or a tainted organ scandal — for us to realize that it isn’t actually working.