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Canada Set to End Blood Donation Ban for Men Who Have Sex With Men

PM Trudeau at a Pride March
Via Shutterstock

"This should've been done 10 years ago, 15 years ago," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.


Canada is lifting its ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men and who are sexually active.

The country's federal health agency announced Thursday it would approve a submission from Canadian Blood Services that would let donations begin from men who have had sex with men within the last three months, Reuters reports.

Instead, the department will now screen all potential donors --regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity -- for what it calls "high-risk sexual behaviors." The new regulations would prohibit anyone who has had anal sex with a new sexual partner from donating for three months.

The changes are planned to be put in place by September 30.

"Today's authorization is a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system nationwide and builds on progress in scientific evidence made in recent years," Health Canada said in a statement, the news agency reports.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the change, saying, "It's been a long time coming."

"The current approach was discriminatory and wrong. This is a significant milestone for moving forward on both the safety of our blood supply, but also, nondiscriminatory blood practices," Trudeau said, according to the CBC.

The policy has been targeted by advocates who have called it discriminatory toward queer men. It evolved over the years. There was a complete ban on donations from men who have sex with men starting in the 1980s. It changed to a three-month deferral in 2019.

"This should've been done 10 years ago, 15 years ago," Trudeau said. "But the research, science, investment to be able to ensure that our blood supply continues to be safe, based on data, based on research, simply wasn't done by any previous government."

It was created, like the policies in the U.S., due to fear that men who have sex with men have a higher rate of HIV transmission. However, medical experts and activists have said this is outdated thinking.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Egale Canada, said the change was "Long overdue!" in an email to Reuters.

Earlier this year, France also lifted its blood donation ban, following countries like Italy, Hungary, Brazil, and several others.

In a statement in January, the Biden administration said it was supporting a massive study looking into how to reevaluate the blood ban in the U.S.

"The legacy of bans on blood donation continues to be painful, especially for LGBTQI+ communities," a White House official said at the time. "The President is committed to ensuring that this policy is based on science, not fiction or stigma. While there are no new decisions to announce at the moment, the [Food and Drug Administration] is currently supporting the ADVANCE study, a scientific study to develop relevant scientific evidence and inform any potential policy changes."

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