Canadian Blood Services now permits some homosexual, bisexual males to donate plasma in Calgary, London, Ont.

Canadian Blood Services is taking the primary steps to permitting homosexual and bisexual males who have intercourse with males — which it calls the gbMSM group — to donate blood plasma, which is beginning in two check cities: Calgary, Alta., and London, Ont.

It marks the primary time the company is opening donations to homosexual and bisexual males. For years, their policy of not permitting that demographic to donate has been criticized as discriminatory.

“We’re excited to welcome more members of the gbMSM community into our London and Calgary plasma donor centres,” Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, stated in a press release. “This is an important step toward our goal of removing the waiting period for gbMSM donors and using sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors instead.”

In Calgary and London, males who have intercourse with males at the moment are eligible to donate supply plasma in the event that they have not had a new sexual companion within the final three months, and if their companions have not had intercourse with one other companion. 

Canadian Blood Services made the announcement on its web site on Tuesday and on social media, which garnered response ranging from welcoming the transfer to saying the company must do extra.

Plasma is the straw-coloured liquid element left when blood cells are faraway from complete blood. It comprises vitamins and immune molecules like antibodies, and donations might be carried out extra continuously than blood donations. 

Men who have had sexual contact with one other man within the final three months are nonetheless not eligible to donate blood.

The company says it hopes to use to Health Canada by the top of 2021 to have that standards eliminated, transferring away from a blanket ban to a screening course of as an alternative that asks about sexual behaviour, because it does for other donors. 

Demand for plasma surging

“Men are able to donate source plasma every week at our London and Calgary donor centres,” Canadian Blood Services stated in a press release. “Plasma donated by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in London and Calgary will be made into plasma protein products when the donor comes in at least 60 days later with a plasma donation that tests negative for infectious diseases. 

“Plasma protein merchandise are specialised medicines that are constructed from plasma to deal with quite a lot of uncommon, life-threatening, continual and genetic situations. The 60-day return donation and testing is a requirement from our regulator Health Canada.”

Demand for plasma products is surging in Canada and around the world. It is used in a variety of treatments for rare, life-threatening, chronic and genetic conditions.

For years, Canadian Blood Services has come under fire for not allowing men who have sex with men to donate blood, a practice many call homophobic. The agency did not say when it would expand the current plasma donation ability to other centres beyond Calgary and London.

“We perceive that being turned away from donating can go away any donor with a way of frustration and disappointment,” the agency said. “We acknowledge that eligibility standards for males who have intercourse with males is a very delicate concern affecting many who have skilled longstanding marginalization and stigma.

“We also recognize that the slow pace of changes to donor criteria that still exclude many gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has been painful and frustrating for many, and we are working to create a more inclusive system.”

Training employees a part of policy change

Canadian Blood Services says University of Ottawa-led analysis carried out at arm’s size from the company contributed to the event of the new standards and donor screening processes for the gbMSM group. 

Part of introducing the new policy in London and Calgary concerned coaching front-line employees on how one can talk with potential donors, and “understand the science behind the new policy,” Canadian Blood Services says on its web site.

It cites data collected by the Public Health Agency of Canada indicating the incidence of HIV and hepatitis C is greater in Canada amongst males who have intercourse with males in contrast ot the remainder of the inhabitants.

“The current criteria are based on a broad statistical picture of risk, but of course not all individuals within a group are the same,” Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, is quoted on the web site as saying. “This is part of the reason we are working toward a new way of screening donors that looks at the risks of specific sexual behaviours.”

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