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Canadian Blood Service soon recommends ending the ban on gay men donating blood

OTTAWA – An end to the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood – promised in 2015 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – will be recommended within weeks under new screening criteria based on sexual history and behavior .

The Canadian Blood Service is preparing a request from Health Canada to allow the agency to eliminate questions about gender or sexuality, based instead on screening for higher-risk sexual behavior. Potential donors may be asked if they have had multiple sexual partners and about their sexual behavior rather than their gender and gender identity.

“Sexual behavior, not sexual orientation, determines the risk of sexually transmitted HIV. Our proposed criteria will aim to accurately and reliably identify people who may have a contagious infection. sexually transmitted, especially during the window period, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” said Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Blood Service, who declined to comment on the details. specifics of the recommendation.

Currently, blood donors are asked if they have had sex with a certain man in the last three months. Women who wanted to donate were asked if within the past 3 months they had had sex with a man with whom in the past 12 months they had had sex with another man.

The blood service said it was preparing to cite evidence from countries that don’t ask donors such questions, as well as research on the risk of HIV transmission, to submit to Health Canada within six weeks. next.

A study of HIV transmission from January 2001 to May 2012 by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that “all studies reported that anal intercourse was a risky practice.” muscle is higher than vaginal intercourse, so it’s a higher-risk act than oral intercourse.”

Nathan Lachowsky, one of the researchers said: Service application.

“There is a way to create gender-neutral solutions, which means it has nothing to do with who you are,” said Lachowsky, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria. about your gender and gender. “That simplifies the system and makes it more accessible to more Canadians.”

The UK’s blood donation criteria, which the Blood Service said it looked at along with criteria from other countries, did not include questions about sexual orientation. It asked potential donors whether they had had multiple sexual partners and had anal sex.

Gay and bisexual men with the same sexual partner for 3 months or more can donate blood in the UK. Wait three months before donating.

As it is now in Canada, a gay man who has had sex with a partner in the past three months cannot give blood, but a normal man can, regardless of how many friends he has had. love in the same time frame.

While the Canadian Blood Service tests all of its donated blood products for a variety of diseases, including HIV, the agency says no test is 100% accurate.

That’s why eligibility screening is an important part of limiting risk to blood recipients, according to the agency’s website.

Lachowsky, who did not comment on specific questions that would be included in the Canadian proposal, said a neutral approach makes much more sense than restrictions based on gender and sexuality.

“That means we’re increasing the safety of the blood system,” he said.

Trudeau has come under pressure from MPs and the LGBTQ2S+ community to remove questions for donors aimed at gay men. During the September election, Trudeau promised that a change was imminent.

But Randall Garrison, NDP spokesman for LGBTQ2S+ issues, said the change was “long overdue”. He said many countries, including Italy, do not have such criteria “without any problems.” The MP has urged ministers to end the nearly ten-year ban on gay and bisexual blood donations.

“I have been calling for a move to risk-based criteria for a decade,” he said.

Health Canada, the agency that regulates blood services, can only change the criteria if there is evidence that this will not increase the risk.

The Canadian Blood Service analyzed existing studies to find the safest way to make the change. This includes an MSM (men who have sex with men) research program and a 2020 Individual Risk Assessment (FAIR) report from the UK on blood donation and risk.

The FAIR report highlights anal sex and “anal sex” or aphrodisiac use as risk factors, but also warns that questions about sex rectally can discourage new donors.

“The safety of Canada’s blood supply will always be of paramount importance to us. We have more evidence than ever before, coming from the MSM Research Program, international data and models. Canada-specific risk, suggesting that screening based on sexual behavior would not pose a risk, Lewis said.

Canada introduced a lifetime ban on gay men in 1992. In 2013, the country allowed the acceptance of blood from a man who abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.

The waiting period was then reduced to one year and became three months in 2019.

Once the Canadian Blood Service submits an application to change the screening requirements, Health Canada will be subject to approval. This process can take several months to a year before the changes take effect.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 16, 2021.

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