Health Canada lifts ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men

Posted on April 28, 2022 in Health Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – Federal Politics
Thu., April 28.   By Jacques Gallant, Political Reporter

“The new policy will screen all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, for “high-risk sexual behaviours.”

Health Canada on Thursday lifted the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men, putting an end to a practice long criticized as discriminatory and homophobic.

The regulator announced in a statement that it had authorized a submission from Canadian Blood Services to remove the current ban on donations from men who have had sex with men in the last three months.

The new policy — which is expected to take effect by Sept. 30 — will screen all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, for “high-risk sexual behaviours.”

Canadian Blood Services said this will mean asking all donors whether they’ve had anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months.

“Today’s approval from Health Canada is the result of over a decade of work to make participation in Canada’s Lifeline as inclusive as possible, without compromising the safety of biological products or the security of supply,” said a statement from Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services.

“Numerous 2SLGBTQIA+ and other stakeholder groups, researchers and Canadian Blood Services employees have contributed countless hours to this effort over the years. This could not have happened without their hard work.”

Health Canada said its authorization was based on assessing scientific evidence, indicating it also held a meeting on April 13 of scientific and medical experts to seek input on the change.

“Today’s authorization is a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system nationwide, and builds on progress in scientific evidence made in recent years,” Health Canada said in a statement.

The ban has been in place since the early 1990s, when it was seen as a way of protecting the blood supply from contamination with HIV. It began as a lifetime ban, with the period being reduced over the years.

Health Canada has said that previous reductions of the ban did not lead to increases in HIV-positive blood donations.

The Liberals promised in the 2015 and 2019 election campaigns to repeal the ban, but that promise was absent in their 2021 platform.

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