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Despite Rule Changes, Gay and Bi Men Still Can’t Donate Blood

Illustration picture shows a Red Cross blood donation center in Watermael-Boitsfort/ Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Brussels, Thursday 19 March 2020. From March 18th, new measures are taken to avoid the spread of the Covid-19. There are 1795 persons infected in Belgium, so far. BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ (Photo by LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, the FDA changed the regulations regarding blood and plasma by men who had sex with men. The easing of the so-called “gay blood ban” was a positive step in the right direction, but the reduction of the window for men “refraining” from sex with other men from twelve months to three months still amounted to a de facto ban on donations from any gay and bisexual men.

And now, news has emerged that gay and bisexual men are still encountering problems with donating blood, not just because of the regulations. And not just blood donation for hospitals that sorely need them, but in cases where gay men have recovered from coronavirus and their blood could be used in essential trials to fight the disease those donations are being turned away too.

According to NBC News, gay men in New York, and in fact, across the country, have been turned away from donating blood and plasma, because despite the new regulations and a national health emergency, the systems used by donation centers and organizations like the Red Cross have not been updated. Another excuse is that centers haven’t trained staff to, I guess, not immediately turn away gay men? Hold up in forms and systems are such an immensely bureaucratic frustration.

This is absolutely infuriating. After the easing of the gay blood ban earlier this month, gay and bisexual men headed to blood donation centers to donate, or in the case of some men, like Lukus Estok, who had recovered from coronavirus, went to hospitals like Cedar Sinai, which were seeking the blood of recovered coronavirus patient to develop treatments. But they were turned away.

Men who had been excluded from donating blood for out-dated and homophobic reasons, still wanted to, and they’re still getting refused because the systems in place and the FDA are so old and poorly run. Much like the unemployment systems currently overwhelmed by claims and relying on old coding, the lack of funding, infrastructure, and training is making it harder to save lives and help people and it’s not just frustrating, it’s disgraceful.

We’re in a period where we need to make it as easy as possible for people to help others, not making things harder. Everyone involved in the bureaucratic side of this needs to do better.

(via NBC News. Image: LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.