Changes to Blood Donor Guidelines
Deferral policy for men who have sex with men reduced from indefinite to five years
Ottawa, ON (May 22, 2013) – Canadian Blood Services has received approval from Health Canada to reduce the current men who have sex with men (MSM) deferral period from indefinite to five years from last MSM activity.
The new policy takes effect on July 22, 2013.
Internationally, there is no medical consensus on blood donor screening practices for MSM. Some countries in Europe and the United States maintain lifetime bans. The UK and Australia have moved to a one-year deferral, and others have different practices altogether.
“We recognize that many people will feel that this change does not go far enough, but given the history of the blood system in Canada, we see this as a first and prudent step forward on this policy,” says Dr. Dana Devine, VP of Medical, Scientific and Research Affairs at Canadian Blood Services. “It’s the right thing to do and we are committed to regular review of this policy as additional data emerge and new technologies are implemented.”
Blood donor screening will be changed to ask potential male donors whether they have had sex with a man in the past five years rather than ”even once, since 1977” – which is how it has read up until now. The change means that any man who has not had sex with another man in the last five years and meets other screening criteria may be eligible to give blood.
Canadian Blood Services has been actively pursuing data to inform a policy change on MSM for several years. In September 2011, the Canadian Blood Services board of directors passed a motion committing to re-examine this policy, with a view to reduce this lifetime exclusion to no less than five years and no longer than 10 years.
After conducting more risk analysis and extensive consultation with scientific experts and with patient and community groups, Canadian Blood Services submitted a policy change request simultaneously with Héma-Québec to Health Canada in December of 2012.
Jennifer Breakspear, the executive director of Options for Sexual Health, participated in those consultations and is now co-chair of the Canadian Blood Services MSM deferral policy working group. “After years of speaking against this policy, I recently gave blood again for the first time in many years. I was always proud of being a blood donor and now I am proud to work with Canadian Blood Services for change", she said. “I will continue to advocate for gender neutral behaviour based screening but this change is a step in the right direction. I applaud Canadian Blood Services for arranging consultations with LGTB groups and patient groups. The collaborative experience helped everyone involved develop greater understanding and empathy for each other."
Letters of support from organizations such as The Canadian Hemophilia Society, EGALE Canada, Thalassemia Foundation of Canada, Options for Sexual Health, Canadian Immunodeficiencies Patient Organization, and Canadian AIDS Society were sent to the Federal Minister of Health and shows the will and desire of LGTB groups and patient groups to collaborate on reform of this policy.
The policy change stipulates that blood operators must closely monitor and report the potential impacts of this change in terms of transmissible disease rates back to the regulator.
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About Canadian Blood Services
Canadian Blood Services is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization that manages the supply of blood and blood products in all provinces and territories outside of Quebec. Canadian Blood Services also oversees the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, and provides national leadership for organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Canadian Blood Services operates 36 permanent collection sites and more than 14,000 donor clinics annually. The provincial and territorial Ministries of Health provide operational funding to Canadian Blood Services. The federal government, through Health Canada, is responsible for regulating the blood system.
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