Queen City Pride hosts first-ever Ally Blood Donation Clinic in Sask.
LGBT allies donate blood on behalf of those who cannot
Allies of the LGBT community gathered at Canadian Blood Services today to donate blood on behalf of their loved ones who are not able to.
Queen City Pride organized the Ally Blood Donation Clinic this year as part of its Pride Festival events, making it the first time such a blood drive has happened in Saskatchewan.
"We're hoping this is a way to sort of open up the conversation about the current blood deferral policies and restrictions," said Jesse Ireland, co-chair of Queen City Pride.
This week, Health Canada has reduced the waiting period to donate blood for gay men from five years to one year. This means that a gay man must be sexually inactive for a year before donating blood. The change will come into effect on Aug. 15th.
There has to be a better way and a different way to be able to assess whether or not a gay male can donate blood.- Justin Waldrop
To Justin Waldrop, the change does not mean much for allowing more gay men to donate blood.
"There has to be a better way and a different way to be able to assess whether or not a gay male can donate blood," said Waldrop.
"A lot of us lead very healthy lives, and we're very fit, and very able to donate blood, and we know our status, and we lead a safe life."
Morag Hern attended the Ally Blood Donation Clinic to donate blood on behalf of her friend Michael White.
"It should be based on risk factors, not sexual orientation," said Hern.
"I have friends that have been in long-term, committed relationships with the same partner for years that would be risk-free, other than the fact they happen to be gay."
"It's the assumptions that it's all like the 80's when the AIDS scare came out," said Waldrop.
"Well, we're in 2016, times have changed, screenings have changed, science has changed, but attitudes and perceptions need to as well."
The federal government under Liberal leadership campaigned on a promise to eliminate this ban altogether, and the LGBT community hopes to see that in the near future.
"It's progress, it's steps, it's baby-steps, but at least progress is being made," said Ireland.
Canadian Blood Services was partnering with Queen City Pride to plan the Ally Blood Donation Clinic.
"The good news is that there are improving relationships, and that dialogue is starting," said Dr. Ted Alport, the medical officer with Canadian Blood Services Saskatchewan.
"We have a difficult history where hundreds of people got HIV from blood transfusions," said Alport.
"We moved to one of the safest blood systems in the world, and we have not had a case of HIV from blood transfusion in 25 years."
For Alport, the priority is keeping a safe blood supply in Saskatchewan.
Alport stated that there would be no changes to the testing policy, as all donors are tested.
Canadian Blood Services relies on a multi-layered system of safety that depends on donor screening and testing.
"The hope is someday that we can go to behaviour based screening rather than time-based screening," said Alport. "We want to do that in a way that is safe."