Canadian Blood Services looks to decrease required abstinence period for men who have sex with men

Canadian Blood Services in Kingston, Ont., on March 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

As Canadian Blood Services (CBS) mulls over decreasing the amount of time gay and bisexual men have to abstain from sex before donating, a London, Ont. activist is pushing for a new approach entirely.

Pride London president Andrew Rosser has been working with the organization since the lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with men was lifted in 2013 and replaced with a requirement of five years’ of abstinence. The time frame was reduced to one year in 2016, and officials are in the process of studying the feasibility of decreasing it again to three months.

“Right now, the understanding is that there is still a considerable risk, even if it’s very minute, that would institute this ban,” Rosser said, while noting that donations are vigorously tested.

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“[But] there are lots gay men who are in monogamous relationships for long-term that are lumped into all of this.”

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Speaking Monday on the Craig Needles Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL, he said he’s encouraged by the discussions, but he believes behaviour-based screening is the best option.

“I don’t speak for everyone, but I know most people would be for behavioural-based screening, which I know is what the Canadian Blood Services would like to pursue as well,” he said.

“The problem is: how do we get Health Canada to buy into that and approve the change?”

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According to the Canadian Blood Services website, the organization is currently looking into behaviour-based screening but Rosser says final approval lies with Health Canada. He says changes are generally incremental and take time because CBS needs to gather research and build a case for Health Canada to approve any changes.

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