Monday December 13, 2021 | NATIONAL & ESQUIMALT-SAANICH-SOOKE [Updated December 16, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
In Canada, men who have had sex with men longer than three months previous, may donate blood.
The Canadian Blood Services website outlines this: “A man who has had sexual contact with another man more than 3 months ago, and who meets all other eligibility criteria, is eligible to donate blood or plasma. Learn more about criteria for men who have sex with men.
“Source plasma donation in Calgary, Alberta and London, Ontario: Male source plasma donors who answer yes to having had sex with a man in the last three months are eligible to donate if they are in an exclusive relationship with one partner and meet all other eligibility criteria.”
See all Canadian Blood Services blood donor eligibility criteria here.
Dropping all limitations:
Local MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) today asked in the House of Commons that the ban on blood donation by gay and trans men be dropped. Garrison is openly a member of the LGBTIQA+ community.
This week, on December 13, 2021 in the House of Commons:
“Despite years of work in my community and despite years of promises from this liberal government, gay men and trans women are still banned from donating blood in Canada,” said Garrison.
“This unscientific ban serves only to promote homophobia and transphobia, and only contributes to blood shortages.”
“CBS says they will finally now be submitting a recommendation to the Minister of Health, this week, to lift the ban. Will the Minister commit today to acting quickly when he gets this recommendation and to order immediately lifting the ban?”
The concern about blood from men who have sex with men has been around the possible transmission of the AIDS virus.
Health Canada says it has authorized several changes to the donor deferral period for men who have sex with men over the last decade. The donor deferral period has been reduced in a step-wise manner based on the scientific evidence available at the time, from a lifetime restriction to five years in 2013, to one year in 2016, and—most recently—to the current three-month waiting period in 2019.
In the United States last year, the one-year limit on a man having had sex with another man was reduced to three months. Controversy continues.
WebMD says this about blood donation by gay men: “The test questions under investigation, which may one day be on the donor history questionnaire, are on topics related to the number of sexual partners in different time periods in the last year, types of sexual activities, and use of HIV reduction and prevention strategies. These questions are typical HIV risk questions.”
Canadian Blood Services submission to Health Canada:
Health Canada received a submission from Canadian Blood Services on December 15, 2021 to move to sexual behaviour-based screening criteria for all blood and plasma donors, including men who have sex with men.
If there is still risk and debate, what is the safety factor that Canadian Blood Services feels is being met with its request to Health Canada this week? What are the details of the request?
The submission to Health Canada from Canadian Blood Services on December 15, 2021 “proposes to move away from the current three month donor deferral period for all sexually active men who have sex with men, and to instead screen all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, for high-risk sexual behaviour”.
While the move to screen for all ‘high-risk sexual behaviour’ seems to seek the application of equity, it opens a new area of concern about how the definition of high-risk sexual behaviour is determined.
Submissions to Health Canada must include scientific data that support the safety of the proposed changes. A response is usually given by Health Canada within about 90 days, but Health Canada says “that can vary depending on the completeness of the data provided and discussions with the organization”.
Health Canada is steadfast in its commitment to protecting the safety of Canada’s blood system and the recipients of donor blood and plasma. We are also committed to supporting blood and plasma donation policies in Canada that are non-discriminatory and scientifically based.
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