The evolution of a donor deferral policy: where do we go from here?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 Ross FitzGerald

New publication: Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men: past, present and future

Dr. Mindy Goldman, medical director at Canadian Blood Services, along with coauthors Dr. Dana Devine and Dr. Sheila O’Brien also from Canadian Blood Services and Dr. Andrew Shih with the Vancouver General Hospital, recently published a review article in the scientific journal Vox Sanguinis, titled Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men: past, present and future.

“Few donor criteria are as contentious as those for men who have sex with men…”, states the opening line of the paper – this is a truth and challenge that those of us working in the blood system and the affected potential donors who are deferred as a result face every day.

For interested readers, this paper (open access and free to read) is time well spent. It provides a comprehensive history of the evolution of this blood donor deferral policy around the world. It outlines the complexities of the current situation facing blood operators and their regulators, as well as the current research landscape. Most importantly it highlights the gaps in knowledge that have made consideration of further policy change challenging. It digs into what research questions need to be answered to possibly shorten the time-based deferral or to consider moving away from a time-based approach toward behaviour-based screening or other methods. 


Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men:past, present and future

As Dr. Goldman et al. describe in their paper, many of the knowledge gaps were identified by stakeholders at an international meeting held in 2017. This meeting was organized by Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with Héma-Québec, and with funding from Health Canada. Following this meeting, the MSM Research Grant Program was launched to fund projects that could address these gaps.

A first round of funding was distributed last summer. To date, 11 research projects are being funded with investigators from a number of Canadian institutions, as well as national and international partners.  A new round of funding under this program has just been opened so the timing of this publication is perfect as it will further inform the next round of research.

Read our next post  MSM Research Grant program launches second funding competition to find out more about the projects underway.

Further reading



Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Ross FitzGerald

Researchers are invited to apply for funding under the MSM Research Grant Program