Expanding plasma eligibility for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men
Canadian Blood Services is pleased to share a step forward in our journey toward more inclusive donor screening. With the approval of Health Canada, we are expanding plasma eligibility for some sexually active men who have sex with men at our donor centres in Calgary, Alta. and London, Ont.
This is the first time that Canadian Blood Services has implemented a screening model that includes sexual behaviour-based questions for men who have sex with men. In these donor centres, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) are now eligible to donate source plasma if in the last three months they have not had a new sexual partner and if their partner has not had sex with another partner.
While this marks an important step in our journey toward establishing more equitable blood donation policies and screening processes, we recognize these new criteria may pose barriers to donation for some individuals. Our goal remains to remove the current waiting period for men who have sex with men and use sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors instead. We intend to make a submission recommending this change to Health Canada, our regulator, by the end of 2021.
At our London and Calgary donor centres, if you are a man who answers “yes” to having had sex with a man in the last three months, you will be eligible to donate source plasma if:
Canadian Blood Services’ goal is to remove the current waiting period for men who have sex with men and use sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors instead.
We’re seeking plasma donors in London and Calgary who wish to donate frequently and regularly.
Men are able to donate source plasma every week at our London and Calgary donor centres. Plasma donated by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in London and Calgary will be made into plasma protein products when the donor comes in at least 60 days later with a plasma donation that tests negative for infectious diseases. Plasma protein products are specialized medicines that are made from plasma to treat a variety of rare, life-threatening, chronic, and genetic conditions.
The 60-day return donation and testing is a requirement from our regulator Health Canada.
Our upcoming submission to Health Canada requesting the removal of the eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men will not contain a hold.
Plasma donation is a powerful way to help
Plasma is the straw-coloured, protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout the body. While some donated plasma is transfused directly to patients, most is needed as the source material for a variety of treatments ― what is called “source plasma." These treatments are manufactured products for patients with rare, life-threatening, chronic and genetic conditions. Demand for products made from plasma is surging in Canada and around the world.
Not in Calgary or London?
We understand that being turned away from donating can leave any donor with a sense of frustration and disappointment. We recognize that eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men is a particularly sensitive issue affecting many who have experienced longstanding marginalization and stigma. We also recognize that the slow pace of changes to donor criteria that still exclude many gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has been painful and frustrating for many, and we are working to create a more inclusive system.