Research resources: Evolving eligibility for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

With funding from Health Canada, Canadian Blood Services is supporting 19 independent research projects to help inform more inclusive eligibility criteria for blood donation.

The MSM Research Program, in partnership with Héma-Québec and with funding from Health Canada, is supporting 15 research projects investigating eligibility criteria and screening processes for whole blood and plasma donation. Projects began in 2017 or 2018 and all will be complete by the end of 2021-2022.

The MSM Plasma Program, also with funding from Health Canada, is supporting 4 research projects investigating alternative screening and collection approaches for source plasma donations. These projects began in 2020 and are expected to complete by 2022-2023.

Understanding acceptability


Dr. Daniel Grace (University of Toronto) explored the acceptability of existing and alternative eligibility criteria to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Project completed and published.

Impacts on current donors


Dr. Sheila O’Brien (Canadian Blood Services) explored impacts on the donor base of changing from a population-based deferral to an individual risk behaviour-based screening process.

Project completed and published.

Mathematical models of risk


Dr. Sheila O’Brien (Canadian Blood Services) and international colleagues developed and refined mathematical models to understand risk associated with time-based or individual risk behaviour-based donor eligibility criteria (includes results from two funded projects led by Dr. O’Brien).

Project completed and published.

Acceptability and feasibility of plasma donation


Dr. Joanne Otis (University of Montreal) looked at how source plasma donation by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Montreal might be acceptable and feasible.

Project completed and published.

Mathematical models of risk – plasma


Dr. Antoine Lewin (Héma-Québec) led a mathematical modelling study to understand the risk associated with source plasma donation by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Project completed and published.

Understanding how change impacts donors, recipients, and others


Dr. Nathan Lachowsky (University of Victoria) is evaluating how acceptable potential changes to donor eligibility criteria are to the general Canadian population as well as patients and blood product user groups.

Project ongoing.

Feasibility of plasma donation with alternative eligibility criteria


Dr. Justin Presseau (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) is working with local advisory groups in London to identify barriers and enablers to source plasma donation by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and inform implementation of a plasma program.

Project ongoing.

African, Caribbean, and Black men and MSM blood donation


Dr. OmiSoore Dryden (Dalhousie University) is investigating the importance of African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) men in MSM blood donation research to facilitate greater participation by ACB gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in blood donation.

Project ongoing.

Estimating HIV risk


Dr. Trevor Hart (Ryerson University) will estimate the probability of HIV risk with different donor eligibility criteria through biobehavioural and mathematical modelling studies.

Project completed, unpublished.

Assessing alternative eligibility criteria


Dr. David Brennan (University of Toronto) is understanding how existing or alternative donor screening approaches would affect eligibility of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in urban, rural and semi-urban areas.

Project completed, unpublished.

Unintentional bias in donor screening


Dr. William Fisher (Western University) is assessing the unintentional creation of bias against gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men as a function of exposure to the Canadian Blood Services’ donor health questionnaire used to screen prospective donors.

Project completed, unpublished.

SexNow surveys


Dr. Nathan Lachowsky (University of Victoria) is gathering data through a large national survey of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men to support the development of individual behaviour-based risk assessment and inform alternative eligibility criteria.

Project completed, unpublished.

Safety, Acceptance, Fairness & Equality


Dr. Blaine Ditto (McGill University) and collaborator Dr. Eamonn Ferguson’s (University of Nottingham) Safety, Acceptance, Fairness & Equality (SAFE project) examines trust, equality and acceptable risk in key Canadian stakeholder groups to inform decisions about eligibility changes and how best these changes could be communicated to the public.

Project completed, unpublished.

Longitudinal analysis of risk


Dr. Nathan Lachowsky (University of Victoria) is analyzing data from the Momentum Health Study, an ongoing prospective bio-behavioural cohort study, to identify behaviours associated with low infectious disease risk in sexually-active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Project completed, unpublished.

Assessing donor screening acceptability


Dr. William Fisher (Western University) and Dr. Jennie Haw (Canadian Blood Services) are assessing the impact on, and acceptance by, current whole blood and plasma donors, of asking donors gender-based and sexual risk behaviour questions. Their findings will inform processes to appropriately screen gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and trans donors.

Plasma Program project; ongoing.

Feasibility of plasma donation with alternative eligibility criteria


In a continuation and expansion of his MSM Research Program-funded research, Dr. Justin Presseau (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) is working with local advisory groups in Calgary to identify barriers and enablers to source plasma donation by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and inform implementation of a plasma program.

Plasma Program project; ongoing.

Screening diverse donors


Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan (Dalhousie University) is investigating awareness and understanding of apheresis plasma donation, as well as the effectiveness of using alternative donor screening questions for diverse gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and trans populations to improve inclusion in blood donation.

Plasma Program project; ongoing.

Acceptability and feasibility of plasma donation


In a continuation and expansion of her MSM Research Program-funded study, Dr. Joanne Otis (University of Montreal) is looking at how source plasma donation in Montreal might be acceptable and feasible from the point of view of cis and trans gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, volunteers from Héma-Québec, current donors, and plasma product recipients

Plasma Program project; ongoing.