Health Canada authorizes Héma-Québec submission to move to sexual behaviour-based screening criteria for all blood donors


September 6, 2022 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada

Today, Health Canada authorized a submission from Héma-Québec to implement a more inclusive approach to blood donor screening. The approach eliminates the current three-month blanket donor deferral period for all men who have sex with men, and instead screens all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, for high-risk sexual behaviour.

As the regulator responsible for overseeing the safety of Canada’s blood system, Health Canada reviewed the submission to make sure the changes are based on robust scientific evidence and maintain Canada’s high standards for blood safety. The safety of donor blood recipients remains Health Canada’s number one priority.

Under the Blood Regulations, Canada’s two blood operators—Héma-Québec and Canadian Blood Services—are required to make submissions to Health Canada for any changes to their processes, such as changes to donor deferrals. The submissions must include scientific data that support the safety of the changes.

Today’s authorization builds on Canada’s progress toward a more inclusive blood donation system nationwide. Health Canada has authorized several changes to the donor deferral period for men who have sex with men over the last decade. This year, in March 2022, Health Canada approved a submission from Héma-Québec to move to sexual-behaviour based screening for all source plasma donors. In April 2022, the Department approved a submission from Canadian Blood Services to move to sexual behaviour-based screening for all blood and plasma donors. These changes build on a previous reduction in the donor deferral period from a lifetime, to five years, to one year, to three months.

These evidence-based reductions to the original lifetime restriction have not resulted in any increase in HIV-positive blood donations.

Héma-Québec has indicated it expects to implement the new donor screening approach in early December. Under the new approach, Héma-Québec will introduce a sexual behaviour-based donor-screening questionnaire that will apply to all blood and plasma donors. The new questions are the same as those authorized in April 2022 for Canadian Blood Services for use in the rest of Canada.

Health Canada is steadfast in its commitment to protecting the safety of Canada’s blood supply and the recipients of donor blood. We are also committed to supporting blood donation policies in Canada that are non-discriminatory and scientifically based.

Learn more about blood safety in Canada and about Health Canada's decision to authorize Héma-Québec’s submission.


Media Relations
Health Canada

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