Canadian Blood Services will request to end ban on donations from gay men this year

Canadian Blood Services says it is taking another step towards ending the ban on donations from gay and bisexual men. Erica Natividad has the details and reaction from advocates.

By Erica Natividad

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) says it is taking another step forward in ending the ban on donations from gay and bisexual men.

In a statement to CityNews a spokesperson for the agency said: “I am confirming that our goal is indeed to remove the current waiting period for men who have sex with men (MSM) and use sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors instead. To this end, we intend to make a submission recommending this change to Health Canada, our regulator, by the end of 2021.”

Since 1992, there have been varying levels of restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. The federal government and CBS maintain the rules are based in science, citing a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men. But advocates have long condemned the policy as discriminatory. Currently, MSM populations must be celibate for three months before donating blood.

In 2016, Christopher Karas filed a human rights complaint against CBS and Health Canada after he was denied the ability to donate, arguing that he was discriminated against based on his sexual orientation.

Karas believes this new announcement leaves much to be desired.

“I think I was left with a lot of questions. I didn’t know whether this meant that we would see a change within a year or within another two years.”

He says he’s not sure this latest announcement is true progress. “That depends on what the submission is once it’s made and whether Health Canada is willing to accept it.”

CityNews reached out to Health Canada. In a statement, a spokesperson said in part: “Once received, the submission will be reviewed following the normal processes for blood submissions, which have a review target of 90 days,” adding “Health Canada shares CBS and Héma-Québec’s (HQ) goal of further reducing and, ultimately, eliminating any deferral period provided that submissions are received from the blood operators that are supported by scientific evidence.”

Health Canada has funded 19 research projects to support the eventual elimination of the policy.

Karas argues enough research already exists to end the ban immediately.

If approved, Canada would join the UK which eliminated a similar policy at the end of 2020.

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