Health Canada is changing its screening criteria for sperm donors, removing previous questions directed at some gay and bisexual men.

In a statement to Global News Thursday, the agency confirmed a CTV News report that the rules for men who have sex with men will be updated.

“After a review of the latest scientific evidence and feedback received from recent consultations, Health Canada is updating the donor screening criteria for sperm and ova donors to adopt a more inclusive screening approach,” said Mark Johnson, a Health Canada spokesperson.

“The new inclusive approach will replace the current men who have sex with men screening questions with gender-neutral, sexual behavior-based donor screening questions.”

The decision comes after Health Canada consulted with experts, stakeholders, including LGBTQ2 groups, and patient associations, Johnson said.

“This change will not compromise the safety of donated sperm and ova in Canada,” he added.

It is not clear when the new rules with take effect.

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According to Health Canada regulations, a sperm or ova donor must be screened using a structured questionnaire, including age, medical history and genetic history.

A 2021 document laying out the requirements for suitability assessment of donors deemed a man who has had sex with a man in the preceding three months “unsuitable” for sperm donation, with exceptions.

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For ova donation, it also barred a person who has had sex in the preceding three months with a man who has had sex with a man in the preceding 12 months.

“The government of Canada is committed to make sure that sperm and ova donation policies are safe, non-discriminatory, and science-based,” Johnson said.

These new screening rules follow a similar change for blood donors in Canada.

In April 2022, Health Canada authorized a request from Canadian Blood Services to lift the restrictions around screening questions for men who have sex with men that banned them from donating blood for three months.

That change in policy, under which all donors are screened regardless of gender or sexuality, for high-risk sexual behaviours, came into effect in September 2022.

-- with files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea

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