Openly gay Mayor of Campbell, California, Evan Low hosted a blood drive Wednesday for the Red Cross even though he and other gay men are banned from giving blood. Since the AIDS scare in the 1980’s the Red Cross has placed a ban on gay men from donating blood. There is no such ban of promiscuous individuals or bisexual or gay women.
“We can use this as an opportunity to strongly encourage the FDA to re-evaluate their policies to make them more inclusive,” Low says. “Because right now, I can host a blood drive, but can’t donate blood.”
There’s a desperate blood shortage for transfusions, especially in summer months when donation rates drop. Surgeries are being canceled or postponed for a lack of transfusions. One liver transplant takes up to 120 units of blood. Hospitals and the Red Cross are putting out calls for donors to step up, sometimes for last-minute operations.
“Someone who is gay cannot donate blood, but we’ve been working on changing that,” Mona Helmold, a local Red Cross representative, told San Jose Inside on her way to Low’s blood drive. “The organization would support doing away with the ban. We want to do away with it and there has been lobbying against it.”
The Red Cross sent Low a letter asking him to host today’s blood drive not long before mid-July, when thousands of men across the nation went to their local donation center to try to give blood. They couldn’t, of course, even after presenting negative HIV test slips, so they turned in their rejection slips to the Red Cross to demonstrate how much blood the medical establishment is losing because of an outdated federal rule.
“Now we’ve seen, with the testing that we have today, that the blood pool has shown to be very safe without having to go through this regulation,” Dr. Emily Blodget, an infectious disease expert at the University of Southern California, tells USA Today. “To be honest, [HIV infection] could happen with anyone now. We need to be just as concerned with heterosexuals as homosexuals.”