As of Sunday, Héma-Québec will accept blood donations from everyone, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, ending its policy against male donors who have sex with other males.
December 4 marks the end of the organization’s rule that states that men couldn’t have had sex with other men for a period of three months in order to be eligible blood donors.
“These changes will mainly have the effect of allowing a greater number of people from diverse sexual and gender groups to be able to contribute to Quebec’s blood supply,” explains Dr. Marc Germain, Vice-President of Medical Affairs and Innovation, in a video on Héma-Québec’s website.
From now on, all potential blood donors in Quebec will go through the same initial assessment to find out if they are eligible to donate blood or plasma. They will be selected on the same basis of criteria, in particular, according to the risks related to their personal behavior.
“It will allow gay men in stable relationships, who are sexually active, to donate blood, which was not possible before. Other than these changes, the blood donation process will remain essentially the same,” specifies Dr. Germain.
“Qualification will be done on an individual basis to identify behaviors that are known to be at higher risk for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, such as HIV, which causes AIDS. The approach will be non-gendered, that is to say that each person will answer the same questions, both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” says Dr. Germain.
Health Canada announced on September 6 the approval of the modification proposed by Héma-Québec for blood donations.
“As the regulator responsible for ensuring the safety of Canada’s blood system, Health Canada has reviewed the application to ensure that any proposed changes are based on sound scientific evidence and that they meet Canada’s high standards for blood safety. The safety of recipients of donor blood remains Health Canada’s top priority,” the agency said.
Héma-Québec, for its part, notes that a similar approach has already been in effect in the United Kingdom since June 2021.