Canada on Thursday announced an end to restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood, ending an impediment dating back to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.

Instead, donors will be screened for high-risk sexual behavior, regardless of gender or sexuality.

"With this new approach, Canadian Blood Services will introduce a donor screening questionnaire based on sexual behavior that will be applied to all blood and plasma donors."the health department said in a statement.

The policy change -which will apply from September- marks "an important milestone towards a more inclusive blood donation system"assured.

This is part of a series of changes to the blood donation regime that have been implemented over the last decade, which saw waiting periods for donations by gay men progressively reduced from a lifetime ban to three months in 2019.

That meant that men who had had sex with men had to remain sexually abstinent and could only donate blood for at least 90 days.

Over the years, minority advocates said the policy was discriminatory and not based on science.

An investigation cited by the Canadian Ministry of Health showed that the current risk of contracting HIV through a blood transfusion, with all the samples analyzed, was estimated "very low": 1 in 20.7 million.

He also noted that there had been no seropositive donations in recent years.

A total ban on gay men donating blood was introduced in 1992 following a tainted blood scandal that saw thousands of Canadians become infected with HIV after receiving blood transfusions.

The Canadian Red Cross, which managed blood donations at the time, had not adequately tested and screened donors.

As many as 8,000 Canadians died, according to a public inquiry. Canadian media reported at the time that people in Japan, Germany and the UK had also been infected by blood or plasma sent abroad.

France, Spain, Italy, Israel and the UK have all recently taken similar steps to relax restrictions on blood donations.

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