A local man is sharing his story after he tried to donate plasma but was rejected because of a partial ban on donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). In a widely-circulated Instagram post, Montrealer Adam Capriolo explains that he signed up to participate in a study by Héma-Québec after recovering from COVID-19 but was "immediately disqualified in [the] interview when it came up that [he had] had 'homosexual encounters.'" He has since started a petition to end the policy.
"I'm literally one of thousands of people in this city who could help someone and I'm not getting to because of an archaic homophobic/transphobic decision."
"I have been incredibly proud of how my country has handled this situation, but this is embarrassing," he concludes.
Adam points to Italy for an alternative model. There, all potential donors, regardless of gender, must undergo a risk assessment.
"Héma-Québec is refusing post-COVID plasma and blood donations from all men who have had homosexual sex in the past three months," Adam's petition reads.
"This rule is set by Health Canada and seems to be labelling all homosexual intimacy as dangerous, whether or not it is in a monogamous relationship, practicing protected sex, or both."
"This prejudice is denying possibly life-saving treatment for a disease for which no treatment exists."
"A one-sentence policy regarding male homosexual sex is simply unsafe and backwards," Adam told MTL Blog.
"If a man is in a four-year-long monogamous relationship with another man and they only practice oral sex, under the Canadian Blood Services' guidelines, they are both considered more high risk (and would be immediately disqualified from donating) than a straight person practicing unprotected sex with multiple partners," he said.
Health Canada first announced the three-month policy — a reduction from a one-year ban for MSM — in May 2019.
At the time, the federal minister of health called the policy "a significant step towards eliminating the deferral period entirely."
He also stated that "Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec continue to work towards behavioural-based screening."
But blood and plasma donations have become more urgent in recent months as the COVID-19 outbreak strains the health care system.
On March 16, when the outbreak began to accelerate in Quebec, Premier Legault even encouraged residents to "go out and give blood."
"We need to maintain our blood supply. So I'm asking for a special effort," he said.
Adam explained in a subsequent Instagram post that he is surprised by the reaction to his story. Many people, he said, weren't aware that such a "discriminatory" policy persists, especially in a moment of crisis.
He encourages people to sign and share the petition.