Education, Health, and Safety

Canada lifting blood donation ban on sexually active gay, bisexual men

Canadian health authorities on Thursday announced that this fall they will lift a ban on blood donations from men who have sex with other men, making eligibility criteria the same for them as for every other donor.

Health Canada will no longer ask men if they have had sex with another man within three months of donating blood, and will instead screen donors of all genders and sexual orientations for high-risk sexual behavior equally, according to a release. The change will go into effect by the end of September.

Canadian Blood Services, which operates in all provinces except Quebec, had requested the change to Health Canada criteria following several other revisions of the ban in recent years. In 2013, a lifetime donor ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men was reducedto a five-year restriction. The sexually active ban was then dropped to one year in 2016 and finally three months in 2019.

Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, hailed the lifting of the ban as the “result of over a decade of work to make participation in Canada’s Lifeline as inclusive as possible.”

“While this eligibility change represents a significant step on our continual journey to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive national transfusion and transplantation system, we still have considerable work to do to build trust and repair relationships with LGBTQIA+ communities,” Sher said in a statement.

Under the new criteria, all donors will be asked if they have had sex with new or multiple partners in the past three months, and if so, if they’ve had anal sex with any of those partners. Those who say they have will be required to wait three months before donating.

The questions are intended to identify potential blood donors at higher risk of transfusion-transmissible diseases such as HIV.

The news follows other recent milestones related to the LGBTQ community, including when France announced it was lifting similar blood donation restrictions beginning in March and when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first time authorized a condom for anal sex in February.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday about the change to Canada’s blood donation restrictions, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “it’s been a long time coming.”

“The current approach was discriminatory and wrong,” Trudeau said. “This is a significant milestone.”

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