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Canada removes barriers on gay men donating blood

April 29, 2022

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was "good news" that gay men could give blood without restrictions on having to abstain from sex for a certain period if they wanted to donate.

A man's arm with a needle in it while donating blood
Canadian Blood Services will now screen all donors for high risk sexual behaviorImage: Bernd Wüstneck/dpa/picture alliance

Canadian health officials on Thursday removed restrictions that made it difficult for gay men to donate their blood.

Health Canada, the federal health department, authorized a submission by the Canadian Blood Services, an agency that collects blood and coordinates donors across Canada, to allow gay men to donate blood to others.

The change is expected to take effect by September 30, 2022.

Donors to be screened by sexual activity

Canadian Blood Services said people would be screened for high-risk sexual behavior instead of being asked questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Potential donors would face questions about new or multiple partners, regardless of who they had sex with.

Those who said yes to the question would be asked about their sexual behavior.

The blood donation agency said questions based on sexual behavior would allow it to reliably assess the risk of infections, such as HIV.

Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Blood Services, said the change in criteria was scientifically informed and allowed the agency to be more inclusive about donations.

Let's talk about sex-ed

Canada hails 'good news'

Prime Minister Trudeau said it was "good news" but had taken too long.

"This should have been done 10 years ago, 15 years ago," Trudeau said at a press conference.

He added that the removal of restrictions took too long but that research "simply wasn't done by previous governments."

Trudeau said his government spent 5 million Canadian dollars (US $3.9 million; €3.7 million) on research into the safety of blood donors and donation rules. 

Health Canada called the step a "significant milestone" in a statement, adding that it builds on "progress in scientific evidence" in recent years.

Canada imposed a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood to others in the 1980s. Over time, that policy changed to require men to abstain from sex for a certain period — even a number of years — to be able to donate.

In 2019, the Canadian government said that gay men had to abstain from sex for three months to be able to donate. Now, all restrictions have been removed.

rm/sms (Reuters, AP)

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