Canadian Blood Services to remove eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men

April 28, 2022 (OTTAWA) — Canadian Blood Services is pleased to share that Health Canada has approved our request to remove eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men and instead focus on sexual behaviour associated with higher risk of infection among all donors.

When implemented later this year, this change will bring an end to men being asked during the pre-donation screening process if they’ve had sex with another man.

“Today’s approval from Health Canada is the result of over a decade of work to make participation in Canada’s Lifeline as inclusive as possible, without compromising the safety of biological products or the security of supply,” says Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services.

“Numerous 2SLGBTQIA+ and other stakeholder groups, researchers and Canadian Blood Services employees have contributed countless hours to this effort over the years. This could not have happened without their hard work.”

The new criteria will ask all donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, if they’ve had new or multiple sexual partners in the last three months. If they answer yes to either, they would be asked if they’ve had anal sex with any of these partners. If they have, they will be required to wait three months from when they last had anal sex to donate. If they have not and meet all other eligibility criteria, they will be able to donate.

Asking about anal sex in the context of new or multiple recent partners will allow us to more precisely and reliably identify those who may have increased chance of a newly acquired transfusion-transmissible infection.

We will spend the coming months preparing to implement the new criteria, including system and process updates, as well as robust training for employees. We look forward to welcoming new donors no later than Sept. 30, 2022 when the new sexual behaviour-based screening criteria are in place.

“While this eligibility change represents a significant step on our continual journey to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive national transfusion and transplantation system, we still have considerable work to do to build trust and repair relationships with 2SLGBTQIA+ communities,” says Dr. Sher.

New criteria support both safety and inclusion

Canadian Blood Services has a profound responsibility to the patients we serve. Safety is paramount in everything we do. The transition to sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors will not compromise the safety or adequacy of Canada’s blood and plasma supplies.

In order for us to change the eligibility criteria, we needed to provide strong evidence to our regulator, Health Canada, that the proposed change would not compromise safety. The new criteria will continue to defer those at a higher risk of acquiring HIV and other transfusion-transmissible infections. Other criteria already in place identify additional risk factors, and these will continue to be applied.   

We are grateful to Health Canada for funding the MSM Research Program which, alongside findings from the international research community, epidemiological data and our own extensive modelling, provided a bedrock of research that informed this change.

This change is the latest outcome resulting from rigorous, evidence-based and ongoing work to address systemic barriers to donation. Canadian Blood Services is committed to further modifying our practices and policies and evolving our donor and registrant communities to more fully and equitably reflect and serve Canada’s population.


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