The Canadian government Thursday announced that it is lifting the three-month blood donor deferral period for men who are sexually active with other men.
Under the current blood donation regulations, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) have to wait for a three-month period since their last sexual contact with another man before donating blood. Additionally, women who have had sex with a male partner who has had sex with another man in the last twelve months must also defer for three months before donating blood. Deferrals for such blood donations have been part of the regulations for many years, though over the last ten years the deferral period has been shortened to the current three months.
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) submitted an amendment to Health Canada, the health services department, to change the deferral criteria. Instead of a blanket deferral of donations from gbMSM, the new screening approach would introduce a sexual-behaviour based questionnaire to all donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The new criteria would apply a three-month deferral to all donors who have had anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months.
A statement released by Health Canada called the authorization of the submission “a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system nationwide.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at a news conference, said that the government welcomes the decision which has been “a long time coming.”
CBS indicates that it expects to implement the new screening approach nationwide by the end of September.