Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Blood cannot be manufactured — it can only come from generous donors — so it’s important that all eligible people donate whenever possible.
But a significant segment of the U.S. population is banned from giving: gay and bisexual men. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans donations from men who have had sex with other men since 1977, saying there is an increased risk of exposure to and transmission of infectious diseases — such as HIV — in male-to-male sexual encounters.
This year, Eugene participated in the National Gay Blood Drive, an event designed to call attention to the ban and question its merit, while boosting blood supplies in participating communities. The blood drive was held Friday, July 11, at Lane Community College’s downtown Eugene campus. Gay and bisexual men were invited to bring a straight ally to donate on their behalf.
Lane Blood Center Mobile Recruitment Supervisor Chelsea Wong donated blood on behalf of Lane Blood CEO Doug Engel. Lane Blood supports a relaxation of the ban so it is no more restrictive than other eligibility standards that apply to higher risk groups. The current deferral standards focus on sexual orientation, rather than sexual behavior, which Engel called prejudicial.
“It doesn’t take a lot of thought to come to the conclusion that a heterosexual person could be very promiscuous, use unsafe sex practices and still be allowed to donate, while a gay man in a committed, monogamous partnership would be deferred,” he said. “Common sense tells me that the gay man is the safer donor of the two.”
LCC student Trevor Moore initiated the Eugene event and asked Lane Blood to participate. The drive was just a first step in changing the standard and the health assessment questionnaire each donor must complete before giving. If you missed this event, keep an eye out for information about a second version, coming soon.
“Donating blood is one of the most powerful ways you can help another person,” Engel said. “Gay men can show their communities they care by making this statement that they, too, want to help their communities, and wish to be valued equally by doing so.”