Canada is lifting a lifetime ban that had prevented gay men from donating blood; but some restrictions will still be enforced.
The non-profit Canadian Blood Services, which manages the country's blood supply, announced Wednesday that the policy banning gay men from ever donating blood will end by summer 2013. The organization released a statement saying Health Canada, the national public health department, gave approval for the lifetime ban to be lifted and replaced with a five-year deferral period. Thus, gay men can donate blood so long as they haven't had sex with another man within the last five years.
“Recent scientific data and advances in transfusion safety led us to review the exclusion of men who have had sex with another man. This change is scientifically justified and will in no way endanger the high degree of safety of blood products,” Dr. Marc Germain, vice president of medical affairs at non-profit blood management organization Héma-Québec, said in a separate news release.
According to Héma-Québec, there is still the need for an exclusionary period, due to the fact that some groups are "at risk of infections that can be transmitted through transfusion." The organization went on to say, "The frequency of HIV transmission among men who have had sex with other men (MSM) is still higher today than in the general population." In 2011, approximately 46.7 percent of people living with HIV in the country were MSM.
One Blood Services executive acknowledged that some might have a problem with Canada's new MSM waiting period.
“We recognize that many people will feel that this change does not go far enough, but given the history of the blood system in Canada, we see this as a first and prudent step forward on this policy,” Dr. Dana Devine, vice president of medical, scientific and research affairs at Canadian Blood Services, said in a stement released by Canadian Blood Services. “It’s the right thing to do and we are committed to regular review of this policy as additional data emerge and new technologies are implemented.”
CTV notes that multiple countries already permit gay men to donate blood, and some even have a shorter deferral period than Canada. In Britain and Australia the deferral period is one year, while in South Africa it is six months.
In the U.S., however, gay men remain prohibited from donating blood.
As of 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred any gay man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood. The FDA considers 1977 the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., and this donation policy was enacted during a time when doctors were still unsure how AIDS spread, CNN notes. At that time, there were no legitimate tests to check for HIV in the blood, and infected blood was finding its way into the nation's supply.
Over the years there have been numerous petitions to lift this restriction. Most recently, students from Sarah Lawrence College and San Jose State University teamed up in March to petition for the FDA to change its policies on MSM donations.
Canada's policy change will be effective July 22.
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Stonewall Inn: Ground Zero
On the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Although police raids on gays bars were common, the bar's patronage, as well as more than a hundred spectators who gathered outside the bar, decided enough was enough -- they fought back. It was the first time that queer people stood up to police on such a large scale, and is often cited as the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement. For more information on Stonewall, check out the PBS documentary, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/" target="_hplink">Stonewall Uprising</a>. <em>Photo via yosoynuts at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yosoynuts/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com </a></em>
Corrupt Cops, Feeds Mafia
In 1969, Stonewall Inn, as well as the majority of the city's gay bars, was owned and operated by the New York Mafia. Establishments that sold alcohol to gay customers could have their liquor licenses revoked, so mobsters paid-off police to turn a blind-eye, thereby gaining a lucrative niche market. For more information about the Mafia's ties to Stonewall, see this <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/stonewall-mafia/" target="_hplink">PBS report </a>. <em>Photo adapted via Dr. Who at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/86931652@N00/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a></em>
Stonewall's mafioso owners reportedly engaged in extortion. Employees singled out wealthy patrons who were not public about their sexuality, and blackmailed them for large sums of money with the threat of being 'outed.' For more information about the Mafia's ties to Stonewall, see this <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/stonewall-mafia/" target="_hplink">PBS report </a>. <em>Photo via Images_of_Money at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/59937401@N07/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a> and <a href="TaxBrackets.org" target="_hplink">TaxBrackets.org</a></em>
Although the Pride Movement did not galvanize until after the Stonewall Riots, there were a handful of gay rights demonstrations prior to 1969. The most direct link to the early parades were Annual Reminders. Every fourth of July, beginning in 1965, homophilic groups would picket Independence Hall in Philadelphia to inform and remind the American people that LGBT people did not enjoy basic civil rights protections. After Stonewall, picketing seemed too pacifistic, and Reminder organizers instead helped plan the first Gay Liberation parades. <em>Photo via ericbeato at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/ericbeato/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a></em>
The Greek Lambda symbol was another commonly used Gay Rights symbol prior to the Rainbow Flag, and was the sign of the Gay Activist Aliance. Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greek_lc_lamda_thin.svg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>
The First Flag
The first rainbow flag made its debut at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, the original flag was hand-dyed and consisted of eight symbolic colors: Hot Pink (sexuality), Red (life), Orange (healing), Yellow (sunlight), Green (nature), Turqoise (magic/art), Blue (serenity/harmony) and violet (spirit). <em>Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gay_flag_8.svg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a> </em>
To meet increasing demand for the flag, Baker approached Paramount Flag Company for mass production. There was an unavailability of hot pink baric, so Baker dropped the hot pink stripe from the design. To keep an even number of stripes, turquoise was also dropped, resulting in the six-stripe flag that is widely used today. <em>Photo via torbakhopper at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a> </em>
'Gay' Becomes Okay
The first gay rights group to use the word 'gay' in their name was the Gay Liberation Front, which was formed In the immediate wake of the Stonewall Riots. Whereas previous organizations, such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, had deliberately chosen obscure names, the GLF believed directedness was necessary, as exemplified by a slogan on one of their fliers: "Do You Think Homosexuals Are Revolting? You Bet Your Sweet Ass We Are!" For more information on the GLF, check out <a href="http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Gay_Liberation_Front" target="_hplink">this site</a>. <em>Photo via Elvert Barnes at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a></em>
Oldest LGBT Organization
The oldest surviving LGBT organization in the world is Netherland's Center for Culture and Leisure (COC), which was founded in 1946, and used a 'cover name' to mask its taboo purpose. For more information on the COC, check out their <a href="http://www.coc.nl/dopage.pl?thema=any&pagina=algemeen&algemeen_id=274" target="_hplink">site</a>. <em>Photo via Tambako the Jaguar at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/tambako/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>.</em>
Wild in the San Francisco Woods
In 1976, San Francisco's Getty Center was undergoing renovation, and couldn't host the post-Pride parade celebrations. Instead, the festival site was moved to the Golden Gate Park. Confronted with uncharacteristically intense heat, many attendees shed most, or all, of their clothing. When the sound system failed, scantily-clad celebrators took to the woods for shade and entertainment, and the festival became one of the craziest San Francisco has ever seen. A year later, the 'Save Our Children' campaign cited the wild wood celebrations as evidence of homosexual godlessness and immorality. For a firsthand account of this, and other, Pride festivals in San Francisco, <a href="http://thecastro.net/parade/parade/parade.html" target="_hplink">click here</a>. Photo via jdnx at <a href="www.flickr.com/people/danramarch/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
The Rise of 'Pride'
Early marches commonly used 'Gay Liberation,' and 'Freedom,' in their names. Then, with cultural changes and decreased militancy in the 1980s and 1990s, these words became less frequent, and the term 'Gay Pride,' became commonly used. <em>Photo via illuminator999 at <a href="www.flickr.com/people/illuminator999/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a></em>
In 1994, Baker led the creation of a mile-long Rainbow Flag, to honor the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the world's largest flag. <em>Photo via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Thelmadatter" target="_hplink">Thelmadatter</a> at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HugeFlagMarchaDF2.JPG" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a></em>
Island-Long Pride Flag
The longest Rainbow Flag used in a Pride celebration was unfurled in Key West, Florida, for the flag's 25th anniversary in 2003. Dubbed "25Rainbow Sea to Sea," the 1.25 mile long flag stretched across the entire island, traveling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Coast Sea. Following the celebration, the flag was cut-up and sent to Pride celebrations around the world. <em>Photo via torbakhopper at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/gazeronly/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a> </em>
Pride in Sao Paulo
With an estimated 3.5 million attendees in 2011, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hosts the world's largest Pride parade. For more information about Sao Paulo Pride, check out their <a href="http://www.gaypridebrazil.org/sao-paulo/" target="_hplink">site</a>.
Europe has a pan-European international Pride event, called, appropriately, Europride. The event is hosted by a different European city each year. For information on upcoming events, check out Europride's <a href="http://www.europride.com/spip.php?rubrique1" target="_hplink">site</a>. <em>Photo via Daquellamanera at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/daquellamanera/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a> </em>
Amsterdam hosts the only Pride parade whose floats literally float on water, as 100 decorated boats travel through the city's famed canals. For information on Amsterdam Pride, check out their <a href="http://www.amsterdamgaypride.nl/" target="_hplink">site</a>. <em>Photo via cgeorgatou at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/cgeorgatou/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a></em>
Loner South Africa
South Africa is home to the only Pride celebrations on the African continent. Two of the most notable are in<a href="http://joburgpride.org/" target="_hplink"> Johannesburg</a> and <a href="http://www.capetownpride.org/" target="_hplink">Cape Town</a>. The inaugural Joburg Pride parade was held in 1990 with fewer than one thousand participants but has grown considerably throughout the years, with over 20,000 participants in 2009. <em>Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gay_Flag_of_South_Africa.svg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons </a></em>
Raining on Australia's Parade
Each year before the <a href="http://www.mardigras.org.au/about-us/history/index.cfm" target="_hplink">Sydney LGBT Mardis Gras</a> is held, <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/the-power-of-one/2008/01/04/1198950075839.html" target="_hplink">Fred Nile</a>, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and a former minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, leads a prayer for rain on the event. Although it has rained some years, the Australian event has sustained as one of best LGBT festivals in the world. Photo via Jon Shave at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/shavejonathan/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>