Health Canada’s decision to lift restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men is receiving nationwide applause.
The federal department announced Thursday that it had approved Canadian Blood Services’ request to scrap the current three-month donor deferral period for gay and bisexual men as well as others in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
Instead, by September 30th, a behaviour-based screening process will require all blood and plasma donors to be screened for high-risk sexual behaviours, regardless of gender or sexuality.
That means all donors will be asked if they’ve had anal sex in the last three months, and if they answer yes, they’ll need to wait three months to donate, according to Health Canada.
Canadian Blood Services CEO Graham Sher says today’s approval follows “over a decade of work to make participation in Canada’s Lifeline as inclusive as possible.”
“Numerous 2SLGBTQIA+ and other stakeholder groups, researchers and Canadian Blood Services employees have contributed countless hours to this effort over the years,” said Sher.
“This could not have happened without their hard work.”
Canadian Blood Services is pleased to share that Health Canada has approved our request to remove eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men and instead focus on sexual behaviour associated with higher risk of infection among all donors. https://t.co/neSh0DoN5n pic.twitter.com/NvNxChqh6m
— Canadian Blood Services (@CanadasLifeline) April 28, 2022
Health Canada says the authorization, based on “thorough assessment” from scientific and medical experts, is a “significant milestone” toward a more inclusive blood donation system.
“Over the past decade, Health Canada has authorized several changes to the donor deferral period for men who have sex with men, from a lifetime restriction to five years in 2013, to one year in 2016, and to three months in 2019.”
Community-Based Research Centre’s Acting Executive Director Michael Kwag commends the federal department’s latest decision, saying, “Canada is finally catching up to other countries.”
“Health Canada’s original policy was discriminatory and encouraged stigma and ignorance around queer men’s and trans people’s health. It also undermined Canada’s blood supply, which can run precariously low,” added Kwag.