From MontrealGazette.com for San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

(Editor's note: Sen. John Kerry is leading an effort in Congress to overturn the U.S. ban on gay men donating blood.).

OTTAWA, Canada — Health ministers in the United Kingdom decided Thursday to lift an indefinite ban on gay men donating blood, a move Canada seems likely to follow.

The U.K.'s rules from the 1980s said all men who have had sex with men, even once, cannot give blood. But the new policy allows men to donate as long as they haven't had sex with another man in the past 12 months. The change does not alter the risk of contracting disease, health officials said, so people can be sure blood is safe.

Canadian Blood Services currently bans donation from all men who have had sex with another man since 1977, citing statistics that say these men are at greater risk for being infected with HIV/AIDS.

But Dr. Dana Devine, the agency's vice-president of medical, scientific and research affairs, said Thursday officials have already begun looking at changing their permanent deferral of gay men.

"Certainly we already have a process underway where we're looking to see about changing from a permanent to a time-based deferral," Devine said. The agency is in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

"It's a step-wise thing and we have lots of consultation to do," Devine said. "(But) I do think that it will happen in Canada."

The U.K. joins countries such as Australia and Italy that have altered their bans on gay men giving blood or refocused their eligibility criteria.

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