Health Canada cuts blood donation deferral period for gay men

Gay men who’ve been celibate for at least a year will now be able to donate blood

Health Canada is loosening restrictions on gay men giving blood, according to a Toronto Star report.
Canada Blood Services and Héma-Québec can now accept blood from gay men who have been celibate for at least a year.

“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Health Minister Jane Philpott told the Star. “There is an incredible desire and certainly a commitment on the part of our government to work toward further decreasing that donor deferral period. We will be actually looking for mechanisms to be able to support that. The desire is to be able to have those deferrals based on behaviour as opposed to sexual orientation.”

Health Canada is also giving $3 million to the blood donation agencies to support the goal, the Star reported.

Previously, it was required that male donors not have had sex with other men for at least five years. And prior to 2013, gay men were banned from donating blood at all.

The policy change comes after the blood donation agencies provided data showing that the change wouldn’t compromise the safety of the blood supply.

“I think we were able to demonstrate that there was no negative effect of going to a shorter time period,” Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer for Canadian Blood Services, told the Star.

Many, however, want the ban lifted totally. The Canadian AIDS Society, for instance, is pushing for an end to restrictions on gay men donating blood. However, spokeswoman Janne Charbonneau told the Star that the new policy was good news.

“While we would prefer to have no deferral period whatsoever for MSM blood donors – that is, men who have sex with men – we consider Health Minister Philpott’s announcement to be certainly a step in the right direction, with a view to ultimately removing any barriers to MSM blood donations,” she said.

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