May 8, 2019 – Ottawa, ON – Health Canada
Today, Canada took a major step in breaking down barriers preventing men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood.
Health Canada has approved a request by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to reduce the deferral period for blood donation for MSM from one year to three months. This is a significant step towards eliminating the deferral period entirely. And Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec continue to work towards behavioural-based screening.
Until 2013, Canada had a lifetime restriction for MSM donors, meaning that they were unable to donate blood if they had had sexual relationships with a man any time after 1977. Since then, Health Canada has approved three separate requests to reduce the deferral period—to five years in 2013, one year in 2016, and now three months.
These evidence-based reductions to the original lifetime restriction have not resulted in any increase in HIV-positive blood donations, and we know we can continue on this path with the utmost confidence in Canada’s blood system. This change ensures that Canada remains a global leader in safe, non-discriminatory blood donation, in line with other jurisdictions that have three-month MSM deferrals: England, Scotland and Wales.
I am pleased that Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, along with Health Canada, continue to consider changes based on scientific evidence. This is thanks in part to the Government of Canada’s commitment of $3 million to Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to further advance research on this issue, and an additional $2.4 million for research into reducing barriers to plasma donation.
Source: Health Canada