Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Health Canada Reduces Deferral Period for Sexually Active Gay Men to One Year

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Health Canada Reduces Deferral Period for Sexually Active Gay Men to One Year

Article excerpt

Canada eases restrictions on gay blood donors

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OTTAWA - Health Canada is making it easier for gay men to give blood, so long as they have been celibate for one year.

Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec will now be allowed to accept blood from men who have had sex with men as recently as one year ago.

"It's certainly a step in the right direction," Health Minister Jane Philpott said Monday.

"There is an incredible desire and certainly a commitment on the part of our government to work towards further decreasing that donor deferral period. We will be actually looking for mechanisms to be able to support that.

"The desire is to be able to have those deferrals based on behaviour as opposed to sexual orientation."

Health Canada is also giving the blood donation agencies $3 million to support that potential goal, she added. "We will putting part of that towards research on behaviour-based donor deferral programs."

Health Canada said the change comes after Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec 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.

Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer with Canadian Blood Services, said that gave them two years of data to study.

"I think we were able to demonstrate that there was no negative effect of going to a shorter time period," Devine said in an interview.

There are those who want that time period lifted altogether.

That includes the Canadian AIDS Society, which has long advocated for an end to across-the-board restrictions on gay men donating blood. …

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