Héma-Québec proposes rule changes on blood donations from gay men

Radio-Canada has learned that Canada Blood Services and Héma-Quebec will ask Health Canada to allow gay men to give blood if they have been abstinent for one year.

Canadian, Quebec blood agencies will ask Health Canada to reduce abstinence period to 1 year

Health Canada lifted the lifetime ban on blood donations by gay men in 2013. (Michael Buholzer/Reuters)

Héma-Québec and Canadian Blood Services hope to eliminate some of the barriers gay men face when it comes to donating blood. 

CBC French-language service, Radio-Canada, has learned those agencies are jointly proposing that Health Canada change the rule on blood donation by gay men to allow them to donate 12 months after their last sexual contact with another man.

In 2013, Health Canada changed the rules to allow men to donate blood if they haven't had sex with a man in the last five years.

Previously, men who said they had sex with a man, even once, since 1977, were not eligible to donate blood.

In line with other countries

The proposed one-year restriction is in line with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruling in December, which the FDA said was based on an examination of the latest science showing that a ban of more than one year is not necessary to prevent transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The one-year abstinence rule also falls in line with blood-donation policy in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand which also have 12-month deferment periods.

"It's a time period of security to allow for providers to intervene if there is a pathogen that emerges," Laurent-Paul Ménard, a spokesperson for Héma-Québec, told Radio-Canada.

The proposal is expected to be submitted to Health Canada in the coming weeks.

However, some groups, such as Gris Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec, are saying that while it is a step in the right direction, the ban on blood donations from sexually active gay men should be lifted entirely.

"It's still discriminatory, in my eyes," said Richard Senneville, president of Gris Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec. "The majority of homosexual men aren't reckless in their sexual behaviour."