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Men Must Wait Three Months Without Gay Sex to Donate Blood in Canada

Blood donor

The nation has reduced the deferral time for gay and bi men -- and may soon scrap the waiting period entirely.

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Canada has reduced the deferral period for blood donations from gay and bisexual men from one year to three months.

Early in the AIDS epidemic, in the 1980s, the Canadian government imposed a ban on blood donations by gay and bi men if they had had sex with a man any time since 1977. That stood until 2013, when the government began allowing them to donate if they had abstained from gay sex for the previous five years. That was reduced to one year in 2016.

Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec had asked Health Canada, the nation's health ministry, for the further reduction, and Health Canada approved it today. "This is a significant step towards eliminating the deferral period entirely," said a statement issued by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor. "And Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec continue to work towards behavioural-based screening."

Previous reductions in the deferral period have not resulted in any increase in HIV-positive blood donations, she said. Other nations that have three-month deferrals include England, Scotland, and Wales, she added.

From 1983 until 2015, the U.S. barred gay and bi men from giving blood unless they had abstained from sex with men since 1977. The period of abstinence was reduced to one year in 2015, but activists argue that the policy is still discriminatory and ignores the fact that all blood products are screened for HIV and other blood-borne infections.

"I am pleased that Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec, along with Health Canada, continue to consider changes based on scientific evidence," Petitpas Taylor said. The government has committed $3 million to the organizations for research on the issue and an additional $2.5 million for research into reducing barriers to plasma donation, she added.

Activists in Canada praised the latest reduction in the deferral period. It is a "big win," said Randy Boissonnault, a member of Parliament who advises Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on LGBTQ issues, according to the Canadian Press news service.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.