An end to the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood — promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 — is set to be recommended within weeks in favour of new screening criteria based on sexual history and behaviour.
Canadian Blood Services is preparing to ask Health Canada to allow it to scrap questions about gender or sexuality, basing screening on higher-risk sexual behaviour instead. Potential donors could be asked if they have had multiple sexual partners, and about their sexual behaviour instead of their sexuality and gender.
“Sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation, determines risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Our proposed criteria will aim to precisely and reliably identify those who may have a transfusion-transmissible infection, especially in the window period, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,: aid Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for Canadian Blood Services, who declined to comment on the specifics of the recommendation.
Currently men volunteering to give blood are asked if they have had sex with a man in the last three months. Women wishing to donate are asked if in the last three months they have had sex with a man who in the last 12 months had sex with another man.
The blood service says it is preparing to cite evidence from countries which do not ask donors such questions, as well as research on risk of HIV transmission, in its submission to Health Canada within the next six weeks.
A study of research into HIV transmission between January 2001 and May 2012 by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that “all studies consistently reported that anal intercourse is a higher-risk act than vaginal intercourse, which in turn is a higher-risk act than oral intercourse.”
The way the screening is currently set up lacks nuance, and also doesn’t address people who are transgender, two-spirit, or otherwise don’t confirm to binary genders, said Nathan Lachowsky, one of several researchers whose work will inform Canadian Blood Services’ application.
“There’s a way in which to create solutions that are gender neutral, meaning it’s not about who you are in terms of your sex and gender,” said Lachowsky, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy at University of Victoria. “That simplifies the system and makes it more accessible to more Canadians.”
The U.K. criteria for blood donation, which Blood Services says it has been considering along with that from other countries,does not include questions about sexual orientation. It asks potential donors whether they have had multiple partners and engaged in anal sex.
Gay and bisexual men who have had the same partner for three months or more can give blood in the UK. But anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or multiple partners in the previous three months _ regardless of their partner’s gender _ must wait three months before donating.
As it stands now in Canada, a gay man who has had sex with one partner in the last three months cannot give blood, but a straight man can, no matter how many partners he has had sex with during the same time frame.
While Canadian Blood Services tests all of its donated blood products for a whole host of diseases, including HIV, the agency says no test is 100 per cent accurate.
That’s why eligibility screening is such an important part of limiting the risk to blood recipients, according to the agency’s website.
Lachowsky, who did not comment on the specific questions that will be included in the Canadian proposal, said a neutral approach makes much more sense than basing restrictions on gender and sexuality.
“That means that we’re increasing, in my mind, the safety of the blood system broadly,” he said.
Trudeau has come under pressure from MPs and the LGBTQ community to scrap questions for donors aimed at gay men. During the election in September, Trudeau promised a change was imminent.
But Randall Garrison, the NDP spokesperson on LGBTQ affairs, said the change is “long overdue.” He said many countries, including Italy, have no such criteria “without any problems.” The MP has been pressing ministers to end the gay and bisexual blood-donation ban for almost ten years.
“I have been calling for a shift to risk-based criteria for a decade. I have argued there are two things wrong (with this policy): restricting the blood supply and promoting homophobia,” he said.
Health Canada, which regulates the blood service, can only change the criteria if evidence is presented showing this will not increase risk.
Canadian Blood Services has been analyzing available research to find the safest way to make the change. This includes an MSM (men who have sex with men) research program and a 2020 For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) report from the U.K. about blood donation and risk.
The FAIR Report highlighted anal sex and “chem sex,” or sexualized drug use, as a risk factor, but also warned that questions about anal sex could deter new donors.
“The safety of Canada’s blood supply will always be paramount for us. We have more evidence than ever before, stemming from the MSM Research Program, international data and Canada-specific risk modelling, that indicates sexual behaviour-based screening will not introduce risk to the blood supply,” Lewis said.
Canada introduced a lifetime ban for gay men in 1992. In 2013 it allowed blood to be accepted from a man who abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.
The waiting period then dropped to one year, and became three months in 2019.
Once Canadian Blood Services submits its application to change the screening requirements, it will be up to Health Canada to approve it. The process could take several months to a year before the changes take effect.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
COVID-19 shows up in Canadian wildlife for first time with three Quebec deer infected – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
OTTAWA – For the first time, the COVID-19 virus has been detected in Canadian wildlife.
Environment Canada says the virus was detected late last month in three wild white-tailed deer in Quebec.
The department says the deer all appeared healthy and showed no clinical signs of COVID-19.
The discovery follows recent reports of the virus spreading among white-tailed deer in the United States.
There has so far been no known transmission of COVID-19 from deer to humans and Environment Canada says it remains “largely a disease of human concern and typically spreads from human to human.”
Still, until more is known, it says anyone exposed to respiratory tissues and fluids from deer should wear a well-fitting mask and avoid splashing of fluids as much as possible.
COVID-19 has infected multiple species of animals, including dogs, cats, farmed mink and zoo animals. But this is the first time in Canada that it has spilled over into wildlife.
Deer in the Estrie region of Quebec were sampled Nov. 6 to 8. The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the virus in three of them on Monday. The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified on Wednesday.
“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” Environment Canada said in a news release Wednesday.
“This finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.
KFL&A reports 34 new COVID-19 cases, 304 active – Globalnews.ca
The Kingston region is once again over the 300 active cases mark, as Wednesday’s 34 new cases bring the daily active case count to 304.
Of the new cases, 10 are in the five-to-11 age group.
Nineteen people remain in hospital, with 11 of those cases are in the intensive care unit. Six people are on ventilators.
The cases per 100,000 over the past week is up slightly to 104.7, from 102.8 Tuesday.
The rise in cases locally has also forced the postponing of at least one local event. The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes was scheduled to have its grand opening on Dec. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have significant impacts throughout our communities, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston is committed to supporting the community through this time of heightened risk and uncertainty,” the Marine Museum said in a statement Wednesday.
“We consider the safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors paramount.”
As Covid-19 cases rise in the Kingston region the community reacts
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Roussin takes aim at HIV stigma – Brandon Sun
Wednesday was World AIDS Day and the province is getting behind the message to end the stigma of the disease.
There were 117 new cases of HIV identified in the province in 2020, slightly fewer than in 2019.
“Even though there are fewer cases, there was also significantly less testing,” Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday.
“Around 25 per cent of people with HIV are unaware they have it, and that can contribute to the spread.”
The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS continues to be a significant public health issue in the province. Roussin said the populations most at risk are also facing problems of accessibility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roussin urged people who may be at risk to get regular testing and speak to their health-care providers regarding prevention, testing and treatment options.
All these services are confidential and free of charge.
Those living with HIV are also encouraged to stay connected to care and treatments.
Roussin said it is considered a chronic infection and there are effective treatments for HIV, with many being able to get the virus level down to undetectable levels and minimizing risk of transmitting it to other people.
» The Brandon Sun
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