Health Canada approves requests from Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to amend their licences to implement a one-year MSM donor deferral period

News Release

June 20, 2016
Ottawa, ON
Health Canada

After a rigorous review of the latest scientific data, Health Canada has issued authorizations for Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec to reduce the deferral period for blood donation for men who have sex with men from five years to one year.

The change is a result of proposals from Canada’s blood operators, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec. These proposals included scientific data demonstrating that the change would not result in any reduction in safety to recipients of donated blood.

The new one-year deferral period means that men who have not had sex with men in the previous year are now eligible to donate blood in Canada. Under the previous deferral period, men who have had sex with men, even once, in the previous 5-years were not eligible to donate blood in Canada. The reduction of the lifetime deferral to a 5-year deferral has not resulted in any increase in HIV positive blood donations.

This change brings Canada in line with several other countries which have implemented a one-year deferral period for men who have sex with men including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and France.

Canada’s blood system continues to have rigorous scientific and screening processes in place to protect the safety of Canadians. Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec will continue to screen all donations for HIV and other infections. As an extra precaution, Health Canada and the blood operators will monitor donations from new donors to see if there is an increase in HIV or other infection rates.

Canada’s blood system has the highest standards according to the World Health Organization and Canadians can be confident that it will continue to be one of the safest blood systems in the world.  There has not been a single HIV infection from blood transfusion in Canada 25 years.

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