OTTAWA -- Health Canada on Thursday lifted restrictions on gay men donating blood, a move Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said was “good news for all Canadians" but had taken too long.
Trudeau said at a news conference the ban should have ended 10 to 15 years ago, but research proving it would not affect the safety of the blood supply had not been done by previous governments.
Trudeau said his government spent C$5 million dollars (US$3.9 million) on research into the safety aspects of changing the blood donation rules and multiple scientific reports showed “our blood supply will continue to be safe.”
Health Canada approved the request by Canadian Blood Services to end the policy that restricts homosexuals from donating blood for three months after engaging in gay sex.
The blood service asked Health Canada to allow it to scrap questions about gender or sexuality, and instead base screening on higher-risk sexual behavior such as anal sex.
Starting no later than Sept. 30, potential donors will be asked if they have had new or multiple sexual partners in the last previous months, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Those who say yes will be asked if they have engaged in higher-sisk sex. If they have, they will need to wait three months after such activity before donating blood.
The agency says asking about sexual behavior rather than sexual orientation will allow it to more reliably assess the risk of infections such as HIV.
Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for Canadian Blood Services, said the criteria change is “science-informed“ and allows the agency to be more inclusive about who can donate while still ensuring a safe blood supply.
The policy began in 1992 as an outright ban on gay men donating blood following a tainted blood scandal. Several changes were later made to the blood donation regime until deferral periods for donations by gay men were lowered from a lifetime ban to three months in 2019.