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Canadian Blood Services Moves To End Ban On Gay & Bisexual Men Donating Blood

Canada originally introduced a lifetime ban for gay men in 1992…

Photo by Nguyễn Hiệp on Unsplash

Canadian Blood Services is moving to end a ban preventing gay and bisexual men from donating blood. A recommendation from Canadian Blood Services is expected to come within weeks and will be replaced by new screening criteria that will focus on sexual behaviour, not orientation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau originally promised an end to the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood in 2015.

“Sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation, determines risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Our proposed criteria will aim to precisely and reliably identify those who may have a transfusion-transmissible infection, especially in the window period, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” said Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for Canadian Blood Services, who declined to comment on the specifics of the recommendation.

Canada introduced a lifetime donation ban for gay men in 1992. The ban has been modified over the years but still created barriers. Currently men volunteering to give blood are asked if they have had sex with a man in the last three months. Women wishing to donate are asked if in the last three months they have had sex with a man who in the last 12 months had sex with another man. Straight men can donate blood no matter how many partners he has had sex with during the same time frame.

The way the screening is currently set up lacks nuance, and also doesn’t address people who are transgender, two-spirit, or otherwise don’t confirm to binary genders, said Nathan Lachowsky, one of several researchers whose work will inform Canadian Blood Services’ application.

“There’s a way in which to create solutions that are gender neutral, meaning it’s not about who you are in terms of your sex and gender,” said Lachowsky, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at University of Victoria. “That simplifies the system and makes it more accessible to more Canadians.”

The blood service says it is preparing to cite evidence from countries which do not ask donors such questions, as well as research on risk of HIV transmission, in its submission to Health Canada within the next six weeks.

Health Canada will need to approve the move which could take up to a year.

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