10/09/2014 10:22 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST

Canadian Blood Services Donor Rules Questioned By Part Of Saskatchewan's Gay Community

REGINA - Some gay men are questioning why they are still banned from donating blood while HIV infection rates in Saskatchewan are lower among gay men than other groups.

Dan Shier, marketing manager for Queen City Pride, tells radio station CJME he and others in the gay community wish there was something they could do to help.

He says it's frustrating to hear about a push for donations during a blood shortage when he can't donate.

Last year, Canadian Blood Services changed the policy from a lifetime ban on what they call the MSM category — men who have sex with men.

The policy now lets gay men donate blood provided they have been celibate for five years.

Shier says while it looks like a step in the right direction, it’s not very realistic.

“It’s almost insulting to think that, you know, you can expect someone who wants to donate blood to make such a long commitment,” Shier said.

He said the policy especially seems unfair to gay couples in monogamous relationships who do everything in their power to be responsible and protect themselves.

“A monogamous couple who has only been loyal with each other can still not donate simply because of the type of relationship they have,” he said.

Shier points out that blood donors are already surveyed about high-risk factors like not knowing the sexual history of a partner or having unprotected sex.

“That would seem to be a lot better at catching high-risk individuals than straight up, 'you are a man who has had sex with men, you cannot donate for five years,' ” he said.

In the 2012 Annual HIV/AIDS Report by Saskatchewan Health, men who have sex with men was only listed as a risk factor in nine per cent of new cases.

Heterosexual activity was the second-most common reported risk at 16 per cent and the top exposure was for injection drug users at 67 per cent.

Dr. Ted Alport, medical officer for Canadian Blood Services in Saskatchewan, said the policies are based on scientific evidence and national research on risk factors.

“The information we have from the Public Health Agency is that MSM continues to account for the largest proportion of HIV infections in Canada so the policy is in place to address that risk."

While he is aware of the provincial numbers, he said the priority is about maintaining a safe blood supply.

“We set national policies and so we look at the risks across Canada and we defer groups in all risk categories,” he said.

While blood tests for HIV are quite effective, there is a window of time when the tests can’t actually detect HIV in the blood stream.


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