Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Canada is on the brink of lifting its discriminatory ban on gay men donating blood.
During a press conference on 3 September, Trudeau said that he is “very, very hopeful” the restrictions will be lifted “shortly”.
Current guidelines in the country mean that men who have sex with men (MSM) cannot donate if they have engaged in sexual contact three months prior to giving blood.
Trudeau said: “We expect Canadian Blood Services to announce soon that the MSM blood ban will be lifted.
“It is something that we are continuing to work on, it’s something that we will ensure happens.”
All gay and bisexual men were banned from donating blood until 2013 in a policy that dates back to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) even required queer men to be celibate for five years prior to donation for them to be permitted to being part of the donor pool, meaning most were unable to give blood.
This changed to a policy of one year until 2019, when the current policy was brought in and aligned Canada with the likes of the USA, Australia and New Zealand with a required celibacy period of three months.
In April 2020, GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said: “We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ+ people, are treated equal to others.”
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 26, 2015
A request to Health Canada for the eligibility changes was submitted by CBS in May 2021, with MSM potentially being able to donate blood by the end of the year.
It is expected that blood centers will be told to shift their policies towards a screening process that looks at someone’s sexual behaviours as opposed to their identities.
“We believe we now have the evidence we need to make a strong submission and are hard at work on this important step towards a more inclusive system,” CBS said in a statement.
Despite the commitment from Trudeau and CBS, no specific time frame on the changes has been given.
Trudeau has also made the promise before, as during 2020’s Pride Month he said he was “very hopeful that we’ll be able to announce the results and the change, very soon.”