Canada drops blood donation ban to three months for gay and bisexual men
The period for which gay and bisexual men in Canada must abstain from sex before donating blood is set to drop from one year to three months.
The change was announced yesterday by Canada’s Health Minister Ginette Petitpas, and it is set to come into effect from June 3 of this year.
“Today, we’re taking a major step towards a fair, evidence-based blood-donation system by reducing the deferral period to three months and moving towards behavioural-based screening,” Petitpas Taylor said.
A lifetime ban was introduced on gay and bisexual men donating blood in Canada in 1992
A lifetime ban was introduced on gay and bisexual men donating blood in Canada in 1992. That ban was amended in 2013 and gay and bisexual men were then allowed to donate blood if they abstained from sex for five years. The deferral period was reduced again in 2016 to one year.
“We empathise with individuals who, for many different reasons, cannot give blood.”
– Dr Graham Sher, chief executive of Canadian Blood Services
“We empathise with individuals who, for many different reasons, cannot give blood,” Dr Graham Sher, chief executive of Canadian Blood Services said. “This further reduction to the waiting period represents the next available step forward in updating our blood donation criteria.
“The work to evolve the blood donation eligibility criteria doesn’t end here. The research required to generate further evidence-based changes is ongoing,” added Dr. Sher.
LGBT+ groups have been critical of blood donation bans for gay and bisexual men
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Canadian Blood Services said they are currently undertaking staff training to ensure that the new policy is implemented effectively.
The group—alongside Héma-Québec—submitted applications to Health Canada in December of last year to change the rules.
Lawyer Christopher Karas has been heavily critical of the anti-LGBT+ blood donation rules in Canada. In 2016, he filed a human rights complaint on the subject, according to CBC News.
“We’ve seen incremental steps that, frankly, don’t get to the heart of the matter, which is that these policies are not based on behaviour. These policies target groups and don’t allow those groups to donate blood for discriminatory reasons,” said Karas.
Various countries across the world prohibit men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood. In recent years, some have changed their policies to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they abstain from sex for a certain period of time.
Blood donation bans on gay and bisexual men have been criticised by various LGBT+ organisations for two decades.