The Canadian Blood Service has come up with a way to allow sexually active gay men to donate blood.

Canada currently enforces a ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) giving blood, unless they abstain from sex for five years.

However, a clinic at the University of British Columbia – known as the Rainbow Donor Clinic – has come up with a way to accept donations from MSM.

Instead of using the blood in transfusions – where the risk of contamination is an important factor in preventing HIV transmission – blood from the special one-day clinic will be used for research purposes.

Blood donated will be available to all medical students for research, provided their research clears the ethics board.

As the blood is not being used to treat patients, HIV contamination is less of a threat.

Dr Tanya Petraszko of Canadian Blood Services told CBC: “This came from the community from Chad Walters, who is a gentleman who was deferred from donating blood for transfusion and he was made aware of our clinic, the netCAD clinic, where all deferred donors can donate blood for research

“He took it upon himself to hold a rainbow clinic to raise awareness in the men who have sex with men community… I think Chad’s point was that not a lot of people recognize this.

“This could be used for cancer therapy, for cancer research, looking at the kinds of proteins we have on red blood cells, how the immune system works — all sorts of clinical and applied research.

“This is what Canadian Blood Services thinks is a first step. It’s certainly still very restrictive.”

She adds of potentially relaxing the MSM blood ban further: “What Health Canada wants us to do is demonstrate that in the first two years we have not seen an increased risk of viruses in the blood supply, so Canadian Blood Services is working on that.”