Expert review of new sexual behaviour-based screening practices

On December 15, 2021, Health Canada received a submission from Canadian Blood Services (CBS). CBS wanted to:

Health Canada sought to obtain external expertise and advice on specific scientific and technical questions that came up during the review process. We convened a group of experts with a wide range of backgrounds and knowledge in health-related fields. The experts volunteered their time and we reviewed any potential conflicts of interest before engaging them.

The 6 experts reviewed the new sexual behaviour-based screening criteria submitted by CBS. The criteria will apply to all potential blood and plasma donors in Canada.

The goal of the new criteria is to make the rules more inclusive for men who have sex with men without compromising the safety of the blood system.

Experts included:

Together, they provided scientific, medical and technical advice on:

Health Canada posed specific questions to the experts on:

The experts indicated that the proposed modelling was acceptable and that the estimated risk was extremely low and not significant. They also concluded that the new screening criteria do not affect the safety of the blood system compared to the current 3-month deferral.

The experts determined that the post-implementation data from other countries, such as the U.K., that have implemented similar screening criteria wouldn't provide additional useful data. This was due to the very small HIV residual risk identified by the model.

The experts agreed that participating in non-monogamous relationships is a risk factor for acquiring HIV. However, most of the experts indicated that detailed questions related to a donor's partner's sexual behaviour:

The experts supported the post-implementation monitoring plan proposed by CBS with no changes.

Although the group of experts provided advice to Health Canada, we were responsible for the decision on the CBS submission.

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