Santé Canada approves Héma-Québec’s request for more inclusive blood donations

Thus, risk assessment in terms of sexual behavior will be done on an individual basis rather than on membership of a group that would be considered to be more “at risk”.

Héma-Québec, which welcomed Health Canada’s approval, said the new approach would come into effect on December 4.

The amendment will eliminate the current three-month blanket disqualification period for all men who have had sex with men. Instead, it will exclude all donors who have engaged in risky sexual behavior, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality, Health Canada said in a statement.

Health Canada emphasizes that the new approach is based on solid scientific evidence.

Héma-Québec, for its part, notes that a similar approach has already been in effect in the United Kingdom since June 2021 and that the new measure has no negative impact on supply.

While in British Columbia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted this announcement, recalling in passing that in 2015, we had promised to end the discriminatory prohibition for men having sex with other men. Since then, our government has invested in several research projects to arrive at the decision [de mardi] and that of last Aprilwhen Health Canada approved Canadian Blood Services’ request to eliminate the three-month debarment period for these men.

This is another step in the right direction; that all Canadians can donate blood safely, without discrimination. This is good news for everyoneadded Mr. Trudeau.

Criteria dating back to the 1980s

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Dr. Marc Germain, associated with Héma-Québec, recalls that the first criteria concerning blood donations date back to the emergence of HIV and AIDS, some forty years ago. years.

What had been identified was that there were groups at higher risk than others, including people who use intravenous drugs and men in homosexual relationships.he mentions.

Hence the criteria aimed at minimizing the risks of contaminated blood donations ending up in circulation.

Originally, the criteria were very strictspecifies the doctor, who evokes a ban for life blood donations, in the event of a single homosexual relationship with another man.

And if each blood donation is now the subject of a battery of tests, in particular to detect traces of HIV, these tests are not entirely effective in the three months following a possible infection. This is why Héma-Québec’s questionnaire includes two questions on sexual behavior deemed “at risk”.

First, a person wishing to donate blood will have to mention whether they have had sex with a new partner or more than one partner in the three months preceding their visit to the donation centre.

Then, if this person answers “yes” to this first question, they will have to indicate if they have had anal sex with their partner(s).

And in the case of a second positive response, he will then be asked to respect this three-month exclusion period before returning to donate blood.

Aim for inclusivity

The objective of the new questionnaire, mentions Dr. Germain, is toidentify risk behaviors, but not risk groups.

Everything for the sake of inclusivenessfor avoid stigma.

Ultimately, to overcome the criteria restricting access to blood donations, it would be necessary to triumph over HIV. A possible goal, says Dr Germain, but one that will take several more years, even decades, before the infection disappears from the planet.

Meanwhile, he adds, there are always risksand so it is necessary to have measures regulating blood donations.

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