Trudeau says blood donation ban policy change coming 'very soon'
OTTAWA -- With continuing calls for blood donations due to the pandemic-related shortage, and years after first promising to do so, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he hopes to “very soon” announce an updated policy when it comes to the current donation ban for gay men as well as some other folks in the LGBTQ community.
“Our decisions from the very beginning have always been anchored in science and data. From the very start when we took office, we made significant changes to shorten the wait times, but they were still unacceptable,” Trudeau said.
Over the last several years governments have cited the need for more research before eliminating the ban. The Liberals funded that research during their last mandate and it was set to be completed last fall, with the new guidelines set to be presented to the government in early 2020.
Trudeau said on Friday that he was “very hopeful that we'll be able to announce the results and the change, very soon.”
This comes on the heels of NDP MP Randall Garrison reviving his years-long call for the government to move to end the restrictions, citing the critical need for blood donations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe they're out of excuses,” Garrison said in a previous interview with CTVNews.ca, adding that more than a dozen other countries currently have no deferral period for donations from men who have sex with men.
Both Health Canada and Hema-Quebec have been seeking blood donations given a shortage due to the pandemic as well as seeking out plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients for critical research and possible treatments. However, willing donors have been turned away due to the existing ban.
As the policies stand, gay and bisexual men who have sex with men, as well as trans women, have to wait three months after having sex with a man before being able to donate. The ban was implemented in 1992 as an outright prohibition following the tainted blood scandal that played out between the 1980s and 1990s and saw thousands of Canadians infected with HIV after receiving donor blood.
The three-month time frame for blood donations came into effect in June 2019 after Health Canada approved a request from the Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec to reduce the blood donation ban on men who have sex with men from one year to three months.
This reduction in the deferral period was the second update to the policy since the Liberals came to power. In 2016 the deferral period was brought down to one year, down from the previous five-year wait after the Liberals campaigned in 2015 on ending the ban altogether. At the time the party stated that the policy "ignores scientific evidence and must end.”
“The policy on MSM blood donations has long been discriminatory, but we know… the safety of our blood supply is something that we have to anchor in science,” Trudeau said on Friday.
This week, Garrison put forward a new motion in the House of Commons calling for his colleagues to back his call for the government to lift the restrictions.