May 22, 2013
For immediate release
Fact Sheet : Health Canada's Five-year Blood Donor Deferral Period for MSM
OTTAWA - On May 22, 2013, Health Canada approved proposals from Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Héma-Québec (HQ) to change the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men (MSM) from a lifetime deferral to five years. This regulatory decision came as a result of proposed licence amendments submitted in December 2012 from both blood operators.
The new five-year deferral period means that men who have not had sex with men in the past five years are now eligible to donate blood in Canada. Under the previous indefinite deferral period, men who have had sex with men, even once, since 1977 were not eligible to donate blood.
The blood operators submitted scientific data which demonstrated that disease-causing agents in blood donations are screened and detected rapidly, even within days. As part of our safe guards already in place and using today's advanced technology, blood operators will continue to screen all donations for HIV and other infections.
Canada's blood system continues to have rigorous scientific and screening processes in place to protect the safety of Canadians. The Department also considered advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Blood Regulations in making the decision. This committee provides health professional and related expertise to assist Health Canada in making appropriate risk-management decisions related to blood, blood components, blood products, and associated issues.
Health Canada regulates Canada's blood system to ensure the safety of blood and blood products for Canadians. Before the blood operators can make any operational changes to the system, they are required to submit proposals to Health Canada. As the regulator, Health Canada is required to review these proposals for evidence that a change in policy will not endanger the blood supply.
The federal and provincial/territorial governments, along with Canada's blood operators, are all partners in safeguarding Canada's blood system, which is considered by the World Health Organization as having the highest standards.
Keeping Canada's blood supply safe is a top priority for the Government of Canada. Health Canada is confident that this change in operations will not compromise the safety of the blood supply.
More information about the five-year blood deferral period for MSM is available on the Health Canada website.