The provincial blood ban will lift in 2023.
In a move that's about bloody time, Health Canada announced on Thursday that it will end the three-month delay on blood donations from sexually active queer men. The restriction has long been called discriminatory against men who have sex with men, but the rule change won't extend to Quebec for a while longer.
Héma-Québec responded that while it is pleased with the Health Canada update, and intends to follow through on a similar plan initiated last December, and its blood ban won't be lifted before next year.
"Héma-Quebec is pursuing its two-step approach to make donations more inclusive for men who have sex with men. The first step will be implemented next fall for plasma donations. It will then be expanded in the spring of 2023 for blood and platelet donations," Héma-Québec spokesperson Laurent Paul Menard told MTL Blog.
Right now, men who have sex with men must refrain from doing so for around 90 days before being considered for blood donation. They can however be considered if they only had sex with another gender.
That will change in all provinces and territories except for Quebec as of September 30, when Canadian Blood Services switches from a blanket ban to a questionnaire that checks for high-risk sexual behaviour. All blood and plasma donors will be screened regardless of gender or sexuality.
Later this fall, Héma-Quebec is set to abandon its three-month deferral period for men who have had sex with men when it comes to plasma donations.
"Eligibility to donate plasma will be based on an individualized assessment of risk behaviours, rather than on the person's membership in a group considered at risk," said Menard.
The blood donation organization was accused of homophobia last September over its restrictions against plasma donation from men who have sex with men. The three-month donation delay does not apply to lesbians, men who have sex with women, or women who have sex with men.
Health Canada has authorized several changes to donation practices for men who have sex with men, moving from a lifetime restriction to five years in 2013, to one year in 2016, and to three months in 2019.
The organization responsible for national health policy called the more inclusive policy "a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system nationwide [which] builds on progress in scientific evidence made in recent years" in a press release.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the decision, saying he hopes Héma-Quebec will look at moving up the timeline on lifting the blood ban sooner than next year.
He cited research funded by the federal government that shows it's safe and said he wants to see consistent measures across the country.