Ending the ban on gay men donating blood has been a long time coming, says the chair of Central Alberta Pride Society.
On Wednesday it was announced that Health Canada had approved Canadian Blood Services’ request to remove eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men, and instead focus on sexual behaviour associated with higher risk of infection among all donors.
“I think it’s fantastic. I don’t think there ever should have been this stipulation where it was only gay males. I think it should have been everybody,” said Lenny Gallant about the move to screen all donors for higher-risk sexual behaviour.
He said developing a donor publicity campaign for the LGBTQ2S+ community would help get people on board because many have never considered being a donor. The blood service could reach out during Pride activities throughout Canada to promote and celebrate the change.
The new criteria will ask all donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, if they’ve had new or multiple sexual partners in the last three months. If they answer yes to either, they would be asked if they’ve had anal sex with any of these partners. If they have, they will be required to wait three months from when they last had anal sex to donate. If they have not and meet all other eligibility criteria, they will be able to donate.
Canadian Blood Services said asking about anal sex in the context of new or multiple recent partners will allow it to more precisely and reliably identify those who may have an increased chance of a newly acquired transfusion-transmissible infection.
Canadian Blood Services said Health Canada’s approval is the result of a decade of work to make participation as inclusive as possible, without compromising the safety of biological products or the security of supply.
“Numerous 2SLGBTQIA+ and other stakeholder groups, researchers and Canadian Blood Services employees have contributed countless hours to this effort over the years. This could not have happened without their hard work,” said Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, in a statement.
“While this eligibility change represents a significant step on our continual journey to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive national transfusion and transplantation system, we still have considerable work to do to build trust and repair relationships with 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.”
The blood service said it looks forward to welcoming new donors no later than Sept. 30, 2022 when the new sexual behaviour-based screening criteria are in place.