OTTAWA — Health Canada has approved a request from the Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec to reduce the blood donation ban on men who have sex with men from one year to three months.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor made the announcement on Parliament Hill Wednesday morning.
“It’s a very significant announcement… As a result, men who have sex with men will be able to give blood after a deferral period of three months,” she said.
In a statement released Wednesday, Canadian Blood Services said the change will take effect on June 3, 2019.
In November 2018 the health minister said that this change was coming “soon,” after receiving an application from both blood donation agencies to change their criteria on how much time must pass between men who have sex with men being sexually active and becoming eligible to donate.
Health Canada is the regulator that approves the blood agencies’ requests to update their policies.
In 2016 the deferral period was brought down to one year, down from the previous five-year wait.
The government has nevertheless faced criticism that any ban remains at all, after promising in 2015 to end it altogether.
During the last federal election, the Liberals called the ban “discriminatory” and said that the policy "ignores scientific evidence and must end."
Liberal MP and special adviser to the prime minister on LGBTQ2 issues Randy Boissonnault said this development is a ‘big win” for the LGBTQ community.
“The research continues into the behavioural-based model, we’re still working on the file... it demonstrates what happens when government follows the science,” Boissonnault said.
In 2016 the Liberals’ earmarked $3 million for research on behaviour-based donation policies, and in 2018 announced $7.1 million over five years towards increasing access to testing and treatment for HIV and hepatitis among gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, and queer men.
According to the federal government, in 2017, a total of 2,402 new cases of HIV were reported in Canada, half of whom were men who have sex with men.