Regina LGBT allies show up 'in droves' to give blood, highlight policy affecting gay, bisexual men

Allies of the LGBT community rolled up their sleeves in Regina today to donate blood on behalf of those who can't.

Policy prohibits men from donating if they'd had sex with another man in past year

Allies of the LGBT community filled the chairs at the blood donor clinic in Regina on Friday to donate blood on behalf of those who can't. (Kendall Latimer/CBC )

Allies of the LGBT community rolled up their sleeves in Regina today to donate blood on behalf of those who can't. 

The second annual ally clinic was intended to help bring in much-needed blood donations, while also raising awareness about a policy that affects gay and bisexual men's ability to give blood. 

Under the Canadian Blood Services policy, any man who has had sex with another man in the past year can't donate. 

Jesse Ireland is the co-chair of the Queen City Pride Festival and helped organize the clinic.

He said it feels like he can't help a needed cause.

"Right now, Blood Services is in a need for blood, and there's a lot of people who want to be able to donate blood. People like myself cannot donate blood and can't give back to that cause," he said.

Ireland said the policy is discriminatory, but according to Canadian Blood Services, it exists for safety reasons. 

"To protect the safety of patients that do require blood products we do need to make difficult decisions," said territory manager Katherine Wasylynka.

The policy stems from concerns over the transmission of HIV through tainted blood. According to a Public Health Agency fo Canada report in 2015, about 54 per cent of new HIV infections are attributed to men having sex with men.

While all blood donations are tested, CBS says there is a period where HIV infections cannot be detected — and no test is 100 per cent accurate.

The ally blood donation clinic was bittersweet for Jesse Ireland, co-chair of Queen City Pride, because he wants to donate blood but can't because of the one-year deferral policy. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Up until 2011, men who had sex with another man even once since 1977 couldn't donate blood at all. Since then, the restrictions have loosened. 

Wasylynka said CBS is open to conversation about further change, and is always looking into alternative screening that could help evolve the current program.

Organizers said this year's ally drive had a fantastic turnout with people showing up "in droves" to support the cause. 

Earlier this week, blood services announced its supplies were at a critical low.

"We're basically sitting at about half of what we need to be for collections," Wasylynka said.     

Vials of blood were collected from allies of the LGBT community on behalf of men who aren't able to donate blood because of a one-year deferral policy. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)