As of June 20, 2016, Health Canada has officially approved Canadian Blood Services’ request to reduce the five year abstinence restriction on men who have sex with men to a period of one year of abstinence before being eligible to donate blood. This change will take effect in August 2016 for both Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec. Despite the reduction in the deferral period, it is still highly restrictive to men who have sex with men (MSM) blood donors and continues to foster a culture of discrimination and stigma.
The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity has advocated for an end to any length of ban, but also strongly advocates evidence based practice. The original implementation of a MSM ban policy in the 1980s was not research based; however, all changes are now required by Health Canada to be supported by research evidence. The reduction of the deferral period also comes with Health Canada’s commitment of $3M to fund behavioural research and pathogen-testing technology. As it stands, there is little existing research on how sexual behaviour creates risk for the blood supply, nor research demonstrating that MSM should be restricted as donors.
Since 2012, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity has been a part of a MSM Deferral Policy Working Group, and continues to work closely with Canadian Blood Services, Héma-Québec, and our Advisory Committee to bring awareness to the discriminatory policies in place, and the research based polices we continue to strive for.