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Health Canada reduces restrictions for gay men donating blood


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Health Canada has approved a request from Canadian Blood Services to reduce the number of years gay men must abstain from sex with other men before donating blood from five to one.

This change brings Canada in line with several other countries which have implemented a one-year deferral period for men who have sex with men including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and France.

The Liberal government promised to end the ban on gay men donating blood in its election platform.

Health Canada is giving Canadian Blood Services and its Quebec counterpart $3-million to study ways to make their policies gender-neutral and behavior based.

The government says the change comes after those agencies provided scientific data that the change would not compromise safety.

The move brings Canada in line with a number of other countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and France.

Canada lifted the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood in 2013, requiring instead that potential male donors not have had sex with other men for five years.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says the Liberal government is committed to working towards further reducing the waiting period, and wants to base the rules on behaviour, rather than sexual orientation.

Director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, Kristopher Wells, says we should have moved past the fears around gay men and donating blood years ago.

“Medical evidence has come a long way since the 1980s. We recognize the tainted blood scandal and the devastating consequences that had, but it’s time to move forward.”

He believes the practice is in place based on prejudicial fears.

“All that does is continue to perpetuate harmful and hurtful stereotypes and the kind of stereotypes that can lead to prejudice, discrimination, and violence in our society.”