Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 428–439 | Cite as

Reevaluating Canada’s policy for blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM)

  • Bellal Jubran
  • Maxime Billick
  • Gabriel Devlin
  • Jeremy Cygler
  • Bertrand Lebouché


During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, most of the developed world instituted a permanent ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). In recent years, public health agencies across Europe and North America are reconsidering and rescinding these restrictions. We examine the Canadian climate, where MSM may donate blood only after a 5-year deferral period. We review circumstances of the initial ban on MSM blood donations and recent social, legal, and economic changes that have encouraged Canadian public health officials to consider policy reform. We also review international evidence about the impact of reforming MSM blood donations. Given improvements in HIV screening technology, results from mathematical modeling studies, and empirical data from Italy, the UK, and Australia, we conclude that changing Canada’s MSM blood donation policy from a 5- to a 1-year deferral would not increase the number of transfusion-transmitted HIV infections. We provide empirical support to the recently elected Liberal Canadian government’s political promise to decrease restrictions on MSM blood donations.


donation blood banks homosexuality HIV risk assessment 



The authors thank Kelly Lau, Emily Hodgson, Emily Reynen, Kim Engler, and Christos Karatzios for their feedback and suggestions, and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) for their support.

Supplementary material

41271_2016_32_MOESM1_ESM.docx (67 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bellal Jubran
    • 1
  • Maxime Billick
    • 1
  • Gabriel Devlin
    • 1
  • Jeremy Cygler
    • 1
  • Bertrand Lebouché
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.McGill University’s Faculty of MedicineMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Research Institute of the McGill University Health CentreMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Chronic Viral Illness ServiceMcGill University Health CentreMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Department of Family MedicineMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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