Frequently asked questions
What evidence are the criteria based on?
Unfortunately, there have been few studies on the trans population in Canada. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “HIV Among Transgender People” (April 2016), which summarizes information from the U.S. and European countries, states that studies reveal HIV prevalence rates of 22 per cent to 28 per cent among trans women in the U.S. and other high-income countries.
How do the criteria compare to the U.S.?
To our knowledge, there are no uniform criteria in place in the U.S. However, based on our correspondence with medical directors at several large U.S. blood collection organizations, many are currently using sex assigned at birth to determine donor eligibility. Their concerns are similar to Canadian Blood Services’ in terms of the risks of TRALI, particularly for trans men, and HIV, particularly for trans women.
How will trans donors who have not had gender affirming surgery be impacted?
Donors who have not had lower gender affirming surgery will be asked questions based on their sex assigned at birth. They will be eligible to donate or be deferred based on these criteria. For example, trans women will be asked if they have had had sex with a man in the last 12 months. If the response is yes, they will be deferred for one year after their last sexual contact with a man.
What consultations have taken place within the LGBTQ community?
We were fortunate to receive input from the LGBTQ community before submitting our application to Health Canada to change the blood donation eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men (MSM) and for trans individuals in March 2016. We consulted widely and in a variety of ways, including webinars, phone conversations and face-to-face meetings.
Although the focus of discussion was the donation criteria for MSM, the participants from LGBTQ organizations were also provided with the proposed screening process for trans donors described above. All of our consultations have included LGBTQ representatives as well as representatives of patient groups who receive large amounts of blood products.
We have heard from some people in the trans and gender non-binary community that our screening processes should change. We would also like to do better. We are committed to working with the trans and gender non-binary community to improve how we interact with donors. This is why we held a consultation meeting in Vancouver (November 2016) and another in Toronto (December 2016). In May 2017, we shared the summary report of those consultations with the participants.