The period was initially a year, but now it has fallen in line with the UK.
Canada’s health minister, Ginette Petipas Taylor, has announced that the amount of time that gay and bisexual men have to abstain from having sex is to be lowered from a year to three months.
The move comes after Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, another blood donation service, made applications to the Canadian government last December. The new rule is set to come into effect on June 3.
Canada imposed a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in 1992. The ban was changed in 2013, and required men to abstain from sex for five years, this lowered to one year in 2016.
Making the announcement, Ginette said: “Today, we’re taking a major step towards a fair, evidence-based blood-donation system by reducing the deferral period to three months and moving towards behavioural-based screening.”
Dr. Graham Sher, the chief executive of Canadian Blood Services, praised the move, saying: “We empathise with individuals who, for many different reasons, cannot give blood.
“This further reduction to the waiting period represents the next available step forward in updating our blood donation criteria. The work to evolve the blood donation eligibility criteria doesn’t end here. The research required to generate further evidence-based changes is ongoing.”
Kat Lanteigne, the chief exeutive on the independent watchdog BloodWatch.org, felt more could be done. She told CBC: “Our perspective is that if you have a behaviour-based donor deferral in place, that is the safest way to operate a public health system.
“It would change what currently happens, in that there wouldn’t be a blanket ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) and a blanket deferral of three months.
“It would mean that any individual — whether they are MSM or trans or a single woman or a married person — gets asked the same questions and are deferred based on their behaviour.”
Bans on gay and bisexual men donating blood are in place in many countries in the world, including developed nations. However, progress is being made. Last year, Israel lifted its ban, although gay and bisexual men have to go through a longer process.
Denmark also announced plans to lift its ban last year, and it’s expected to come into effect at some point during this year. Speaking to the CPH Online, Danish Health Minister Ellen Trane Nørby said: “The authority [patient safety] has found a model we feel is safe and we will therefore incorporate it into Denmark.
“All safety mechanisms in our blood donation system are built on trust and we have some very advanced tests that screen the blood.”