Canada to lift ban on sexually active gay and bisexual men donating blood

Decades-old law is being repealed in a push for inclusivity

Abe Asher
Friday 29 April 2022 15:01
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Canada moved Thursday to repeal a decades-old law banning sexually active gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

The federal health department announced that it has approved a request from Canadian Blood Services to allow men who have had sex with another man within the past three months to donate blood. The change in policy is expected to take effect by the end of September.

“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 wrote in a statement.

Moving forward, all potential blood and plasma donors will be screened “high-risk sexual behaviours,” while anyone who has had sex with a new partner will have to wait three months before donating. Canadian Blood Services, which operates in every Canadian province bar Quebec, will no longer ask if men have been sexually active with other men.

The new policy will not in any way single out gay and bisexual men, who were at one point in the 1980s banned entirely from donating blood due to concerns about the transmission of HIV. The Canadian government eventually lifted that ban, but forced men to abstain from sex with other men for five years before donating, then one year.

In 2019, the government adopted a new policy requiring a period of abstinence of only three months. Now, that requirement is gone completely. France announced a similar change in its blood donation policies earlier this year.

“It took too long,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has long supported the rule change, said on Thursday. “This should have been done 10 years ago, 15 years ago. But the research ... simply wasn’t done by any previous government. So we did it.”

Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, sounded a similar note.

“While this eligibility change represents a significant step on our continual journey to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive national transfusion and transplantation system, we still have considerable work to do to build trust and repair relationships with LGBTQIA+ communities,” he said.

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