May 8, 2019 – Ottawa, ON – Health Canada
Today, Canada took a major step in breaking down barriers preventing men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood.
Health Canada has approved a request by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to reduce the deferral period for blood donation for MSM from one year to three months. This is a significant step towards eliminating the deferral period entirely. And Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec continue to work towards behavioural-based screening.
Until 2013, Canada had a lifetime restriction for MSM donors, meaning that they were unable to donate blood if they had had sexual relationships with a man any time after 1977. Since then, Health Canada has approved three separate requests to reduce the deferral period-to five years in 2013, one year in 2016, and now three months.
These evidence-based reductions to the original lifetime restriction have not resulted in any increase in HIV-positive blood donations, and we know we can continue on this path with the utmost confidence in Canada’s blood system. This change ensures that Canada remains a global leader in safe, non-discriminatory blood donation, in line with other jurisdictions that have three-month MSM deferrals: England, Scotland and Wales.
I am pleased that Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, along with Health Canada, continue to consider changes based on scientific evidence. This is thanks in part to the Government of Canada’s commitment of $3 million to Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to further advance research on this issue, and an additional $2.4 million for research into reducing barriers to plasma donation.
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health