In a “significant milestone” Canada lifted the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The rule had prevented men who have had sex with other men from donating blood for three months or in other words gay men had to abstain for three months if they wanted to donate blood. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party had in 2015 promised to lift the ban, on Thursday called the present rules “discriminatory and wrong”, and said that reforms were long overdue. 

Canada’s new policy that will come into effect from September 30, will not ask blood donors about their sexual orientation. Instead, they will be asked if they have had high-risk sexual behaviours in the past three months irrespective of the partner’s gender.

All donors will be asked if they have had new and/ or multiple sexual partners in the last three months and if they have had anal sex with any of these partners. 

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Health Canada said it was “a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system”.

Gay Blood Ban In Response To AIDS Epidemic

Canada had instituted the ban on gay men donating blood in 1992 after many countries put in place similar bans in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. 

In recent times, some countries lifted the ban recognising the fact that blood is screened now for viruses like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. UK, France, Germany, Israel, Greece, Brazil, Hungary, Argentina and Denmark have withdrawn the ban. The US reduced the period gay men had to abstain before donating blood from one year to three months in October 2020, following widespread blood shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Last year, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood too reduced the abstinence period for gay men and trans women before they can donate blood from one year to three months. However, Australia has so far not completely lifted the gay blood ban despite calls from activists and health experts. 

Australia Continues With Gay Blood Ban

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said pointed out that while Australia scrapped the blood ban on people who lived in the UK during the Mad Cow disease outbreak to address blood shortages due to the Coronavirus pandemic, they had failed to do so for gay men and trans women. 

“Australia is falling behind comparable countries and must replace our gay blood ban with individual risk assessment as soon as possible,” Croome said in a statement.  

“The global move away from banning gay blood donors is because research shows it reduces the amount of safe blood available. Gay blood bans also fail to ensure maximum safety because the rate of new HIV infection is increasing among heterosexuals and decreasing among gay men,” Croome pointed out. 

“If Australia’s blood authorities can lift the Mad Cow ban, the least they can do is conduct a review of the gay ban. If the current gay blood ban continues despite all the evidence against it, the global movement to drop it and an end to other bans like the one linked to Mad Cow Disease, the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Service risks tarnishing its good reputation,” added Croome. 

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