Health Canada approves Héma-Québec’s gender-neutral questionnaire for blood donations

In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, donors give blood at a drive attempting to set a record for most single-day donations in Rutland, Vt. Toby Talbot/AP

Héma-Québec’s request for a gender-neutral screening questionnaire for all types of blood donations has received the green light from Health Canada.

The provincial organization’s assessment of risk for sexual behaviour will be made on an individual basis for donors, rather than on belonging to a group considered to be “at-risk.”

Nathalie Fagnan, president and CEO of Héma-Québec, described it as a “more inclusive approach” when it comes to blood and platelet donations.

“It is consistent with the actions we have taken since 2013, with the approval of Health Canada, for men who have sex with men,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “Making this humanitarian gesture even more inclusive and accessible to a greater number of people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, is an important step forward.”

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The change means nixing the current three-month exclusion period for men who have sex with other men. Instead, it would exclude all donors who have taken part in high-risk sexual encounters regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Health Canada.

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“As the regulator responsible for overseeing the safety of Canada’s blood system, Health Canada reviewed the submission to make sure the changes are based on robust scientific evidence and maintain Canada’s high standards for blood safety. The safety of donor blood recipients remains Health Canada’s number one priority,” the agency said in a statement.

The new questionnaire by Héma-Québec will be rolled out for plasma donations on Oct. 2 and then to all blood donations as of Dec. 4.

Health Canada says the screening questions are the same ones it authorized earlier this year for Canadian Blood Services.

with files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Canadian Blood Services asks for more donations as it grapples with low donor base'
Canadian Blood Services asks for more donations as it grapples with low donor base

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