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Canada could soon overturn its partial blood donation ban for gay, bisexual and queer men, according to the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada first promised to do away with the discriminatory policy during its successful 2015 election campaign, Global News reported.
However, the same promise was not included in the Liberal’s re-election campaign this year.
Trudeau blamed the delay on cuts by the previous Conservative government. He claimed that the Canadian Blood Services, an independent blood donation non-profit that acts as Canada’s blood authority, doesn’t have the data to make a final decision at present, but he believed the ban could be lifted very soon.
“We have said consistently right back since 2015 that the ban on blood donation, on giving blood, for men who have sex with men is unacceptable, discriminatory and wrong,” Trudeau said.
He added: “We are very, very hopeful, and we expect Canadian Blood Services to announce soon that the ban will be lifted shortly.
“It is something that we are working on, continue to work on. It is something we will ensure happens.”
Vice reported that Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Quebec, another blood donation body in Canada, dropped the outright ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood in 2013. The bodies instead asked potential male blood donors if they had sex with a man “even once… in the last five years”.
This five-year wait time was lowered to one year in 2016, according to CBC, and it was further reduced to three months in 2019.
Earlier this year, Canadian Blood Services said it intended to ask Health Canada, its regulator, to remove the current waiting period for men who have sex with men by the end of 2021. It said it would instead use “sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors instead”.
Kirk Furlotte – Atlantic regional manager for Community-Based Research Centre, a non-profit that champions the health of gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit and queer men – told CBC in August that the ban overturn was long overdue.
Furlotte said the LGBT+ community is “looking forward” to the ban lifting, but he expected it will be a “bumpy road for the first” “few years” as individuals begin to trust the blood donation bodies again.
“[The wait time] may have made sense at one point in history, but the policies haven’t kept up with the science,” Furlotte explained. “It encourages stigma and discrimination towards women, men and also trans people.”
The news that Canada could overturn its ban follows Israel announcing last month it would lift current restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
Last year, the British government announced it would relax a partial ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
Now, blood services in England, Scotland and Wales assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of a blanket restriction. So all people regardless of gender identity and sexuality are asked the same questioned based on their recent sexual activity.