Blood Services draws closer to end of ban | News Today

Blood Services draws closer to end of ban

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In a move that LGBTQ2S + advocates say is long overdue, Canadian Blood Services on Wednesday submitted a request to Health Canada to end the blood ban.

In new policy review request, Canadian Blood Services calls on its regulatory body to approve a change to its donor eligibility criteria that would allow blood donation clinics to stop gay and bisexual men as well as other people in the LGBTQ2S + community, whom they have had sex with a man.

Instead, they want to ask all donors, regardless of orientation, if they have engaged in high-risk sexual activity, ushering in a model of sexual behavior-based screening for all donors, regardless of who. or their orientation.

“We aim to be an inclusive and welcoming organization for all potential donors with minimal restrictions … This would allow us to accurately and reliably identify those who may have a transfusion-transmissible infection, regardless of gender or orientation. sexual, ”we read in an update. on the website of the donation agency announcing the submission.

As it currently stands, Canadian Blood Services prohibits gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, as well as certain transgender people who have sex with men, from donating blood unless they are. have been sober for three months.

If this submission is approved, when donors are screened before rolling up their sleeves, they will instead be asked if they have recently had anal sex in the context of new or multiple sex partners within a certain time frame. This is a decision according to Canadian Blood Services, the evidence shows would allow greater fairness for donors while ensuring a safe supply.

“Sexual behavior, not sexual orientation, determines the risk of sexual transmission of blood-borne pathogens,” said Dr. Isra Levy, Vice-President of Medical Affairs for Canadian Blood Services at the latest meeting of the organization’s board of directors on December 3.

Canadian Blood Services reported that this submission had been arriving for several months, and it is now up to Health Canada to review it, which could take months. If the change is approved, Canadian Blood Services warns that it could take months after the exam is finished to ensure staff are trained and ready to move on to the new screening system.

“We certainly recognize that many members of the community are eager for the opportunity to donate and feel that it is long overdue, and we are committed to taking the time to do it right,” said Levy.

Canadian Blood Services operates blood donations in all provinces and territories other than Quebec, which is managed by Hema Quebec. This agency is not involved in this submission.


The policy began in 1992 as an outright lifelong ban following the tainted blood scandal that unfolded between the 1980s and 1990s and saw thousands of Canadians infected with HIV after receiving blood from giver. During this scandal, the Canadian Red Cross – which was the predecessor of Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec – failed to properly test and screen donors, resulting in exposure thousands of Canadians get HIV from contaminated blood products.

Over the next nearly three decades, the policy was gradually relaxed, starting with a change in 2013 that saw the lifetime ban reduced to a five-year deferral period. This meant that, rather than categorically refusing donations from men who have sex with men, or from the “MSM” community as some have invented it, donations would only be accepted if the donor had not been. sexually active for five years.

In 2016, the five-year deferral period was reduced to one year, and then in June 2019, the current three-month deferral period came into effect.

As previously reported, amid questions about why policy has been slow to change, Health Canada has “demanded” two-year intervals between when donor selection criteria could be updated, to monitor potential impacts on blood safety from the updated donor selection criteria, according to the documents.

Policy changes in recent years are the result of Health Canada’s approval of regulatory submissions, which included risk modeling showing it would be safe to do so. Canadian Blood Services also consulted with stakeholders, including the LGBTQ2S + community and patient groups throughout this process.

As has been the case for some time, every blood donation in Canada is tested for HIV. With current testing capabilities, HIV can be detected within a “window period” of about nine days after infection.

The reduction in the time that affected donors must abstain in the past has not resulted in an increased risk of communicable disease, according to Canadian Blood Services.

“We have more evidence than ever… that this change will not compromise the safety or adequacy of the blood supply. Currently, the risk of introducing HIV into the blood system is extremely low and the evidence shows the proposed change will not increase that risk, ”their website read.


The federal government has been criticized for years for failing to keep its long-standing promise to lift the ban. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also been criticized for making recurring promises in recent years that policy change is imminent.

Senior Cabinet ministers responsible for the case rejected calls to unilaterally force a change to the rules of the Blood Regulations in Canada, saying the agency had a “limited role” to intervene and that it was up to the Canadian Society blood to demand a change in policy.

The Liberals funded research projects that aimed to help strengthen evidence-based decision-making, including studying donor eligibility criteria and alternative selection processes. The CBS said that this evidence, risk modeling based on data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as international research informed the 2021 submission.

Questions about the policy, and whether the federal government discriminated against LGBTQ2 + donors by supporting it, continue to play out in federal court.

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