Blood donation deferral period drops to 3 months for gay, bisexual men

The blood donation deferral period for gay and bisexual male donors is being dropped to three months from one year in Canada.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor made the announcement on Parliament Hill in a move that was foreshadowed late last year.

“Today, we’re taking a major step towards a fair, evidence-based blood donation system by reducing the deferral period to three months and moving towards behavioural based screening.” said Petitpas Taylor.

The new guideline means that a gay or bisexual man has to abstain from sex with other men for three months before he can donate blood.

Today’s announcement marks the latest change in the Health Canada and Canadian Blood Services policy which was introduced in 1992 as an outright ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men after thousands of Canadians were infected HIV and hepatitis C through tainted blood products. 

The lifetime ban was lifted in 2013 when Canada moved to a policy that allowed donations from men who said they had abstained from sex with other men for five years. In 2016, that deferral period was dropped to one year. 

The deferral practice has been criticized by a number of groups as being discriminatory and advocates have been calling for an alternative screening method that would assess the risk of a donor based on individual behaviour.

According to the Canada Communicable Diseases Report, there were 2,402 new cases of HIV reported in Canada in 2017, with 46.4 per cent of those being men who had sex with men.

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