Canadian Blood Services to Recommend Removing Sexual Orientation-Based Donation Limitations

As promised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 2015, an end to a ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood is set to happen in the near future.

Within weeks, Canadian Blood Services is expected to ask Health Canada to allow it to remove questions about gender or sexuality, basing screening on higher-risk sexual behavior instead. Potential blood donors could be asked if they have had multiple sexual partners, and about their sexual behavior rather than sexuality and gender.

“Sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation, determines risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Our proposed criteria will aim to precisely and reliably identify those who may have a transfusion-transmissible infection, especially in the window period, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” said Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for Canadian Blood Services.

Before giving blood, men who are volunteering are currently asked if they have had sex with a man in the last three months. Women are asked, if in the last three months, they have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man in the last 12 months.

Canadian Blood Services says it will cite evidence from countries that do not ask donors such questions and include research on the risk of HIV transmission.

“There’s a way in which to create solutions that are gender-neutral, meaning it’s not about who you are in terms of your sex and gender,” said Nathan Lachowsky, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at University of Victoria. “That simplifies the system and makes it more accessible to more Canadians.”

Image source: Canadian Blood Services