McDowell, Catherine

Project title: Informing Canada’s Blood Donor Deferral Policy for Sexual Minority Men

Department: Public Health and Social Policy

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Nathan Lachowsky and Ms. Karyn Fulcher

"In recent years, blood donor deferral criteria related to men who have sex with men (MSM) in Canada have been reduced from a lifetime to 3-month period. Community advocacy seeks further change to a policy that is not specific to MSM, one that is “gender blind”. Funded by Canadian Blood Services, this multi-method community-based research study seeks to assess the acceptability of screening and alternative risk management technologies among patient and blood-user groups. A national survey will evaluate the acceptability of a new screening questionnaire and the inclusion of sensitive questions, identifying new potential donors who have previously been discouraged by the current MSM deferral policy. We will conduct interviews with patients who rely on blood products in order to generate evidence on the opinion of and impact that possible changes to donor screening could have on blood-user groups. As a JCURA student, I will assist with project development, help conduct and transcribe interviews, and analyze transcripts. Working on behalf of the University of Victoria in collaboration with the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) and under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Lachowsky, I will focus on the perceived impact of donor deferral policy change on patients and blood-user groups. This project will produce critical and robust evidence to inform applications to Health Canada for deferral criteria amendment, and international blood safety policy in the long-term. Collectively, we strive for greater multi-stakeholder support to implement an individual behavioral-based risk assessment donor policy."