Should This Gay Mayor Agree To Host A Blood Drive To Which He Can’t Donate?

evan-lowAt 30, Evan Low is the youngest, openly gay Asian-American mayor in the United States. His town of Campbell, California was recently approached to host a blood drive for the American Red Cross, but as a gay man, Low himself is unable to donate.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, “men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”

red-crossSo if you’re a gay man, and unless you’re completely celibate, you’re unable to donate blood, much like Evan Low. He took his dilemma public by posting the letter from the Red Cross and posing the following question on his Facebook page:

As mayor of my city, I can host a blood drive, but I cannot donate myself. I am conflicted. I want to support the Red Cross, but because of the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) discriminatory ban, gay men are prohibited from donating blood. Even though the blood is tested. I want to support the community with blood donations, but I will not tolerate organizations discriminating any group of people. What would you do?

The blood drive is part of the Red Cross’ City Blood Challenge 2013, a competition between Northern California cities to “combat the threat of summer blood shortages and to increase awareness about the constant need for blood.”

One could argue that if there’s this vampiric need for blood, opening up a whole other artery of potential donors would be a good thing. Automatically disqualifying any man who’s ever had sex with another man — and when you think about it like that, who are we fooling? — is not only discriminatory, despite the FDA’s arguments, but also extremely stigmatizing. A scarlet GAY, if you will.

But as a mayor, Low has an obligation to ensure the public good…so what should he do?

UPDATE: Mayor Evan Low provided us with the following quote: “Many public institutions have nondiscrimination policies in place and I urge the FDA to revisit its discriminatory policy. The LGBT community has a tradition of putting the community at large ahead of its own interests– by serving in the armed forces, serving in the Boy Scouts while hiding their identity, and by wishing to donate blood.  As an elected official, my commitment and duty is to the greater good of all people.”

h/t: 312

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  • Fidelio

    It’s an FDA thing, not a Red Cross thing. By his rationale, we shouldn’t buy crappy Target wedding merchandise, either, because gay people can’t marry. Besides, Red Cross has been advocating changes to current government guidelines to ameliorate the situation. Low may be only 30 (and a hottie), but he needs to grow the fuck up.

  • Gigi Gee

    In Canada the ban on gay blood donation has been rescinded. Now we can donate blood, as long as we haven’t had gay sex for FIVE YEARS! Um. Thanks?

  • gppm1103

    Yes, the FDA did this after the AIDS crises hit. And for good reason. But the FDA
    should change this policy. All blood is tested. By the way, they do test for other contaminants as well. If anybody is discriminating it would be the FDA.

  • JAW

    HELL YES!!

    The blood collected might be used to save his own life… Or My life…

    So PLEASE Promote it BIG Time

  • bigomega73

    The FDA and the Red Cross have a duty to ensure that the blood they provide is as safe as they can possibly make it. Currently, the test we have for the HIV viral load still has a window period of one week when it cannot detect newly infected blood, so saying they have a test for it as if this somehow makes it safe is very misleading. There would still be instances where there could be HIV+ blood getting into the supply. Is the ban discriminatory? Absolutely. Is the ban necessary? Absolutely. Discrimination isn’t always wrong

  • Taliaferro

    I have been unable to donate blood since I had hepatitis in 1984, in addition to the fact that I tested positive for HIV that year. When I had leukemia in ’95-’96, I received dozens of blood transfusions. They helped save my life. The ban on gay men needs to be rescinded but denying a blood drive because one is gay and cannot donate is both short sighted and morally wrong. Low has no reason to feel conflicted. When he became mayor, he agreed to do what was right and needed for his city. To politicize a blood drive in this manner accomplishes nothing. Work to rescind the ban by all means, but collect the blood!

  • Captain proton

    @bigomega73: in that case why aren’t women who have unprotected sex with men banned under the 1977 stipulation as well? They have as much potential to be carriers.

    and what about all those African American men who would not in a million years consider themselves gay, yet have occasional sex with men (the so called down-low), should they not be banned as well?

  • sfbeast

    Despite the slight to gay men, blood drives are important. It should not be cancelled.

  • Caleb in SC

    @Fidelio, I agree and completely disagree with you. Yes, the LGBT community needs to stop supporting businesses that do not support us. And, no, he is completely right in being conflicted because, if the Red Cross put pressure on the FDA, the FDA would rescind its rule against gay men donating blood.

  • Shadeaux

    Of course he should. It’s not about him.

  • bigomega73

    @captain proton there is a very real disparity between the percentage of the gay population that is infected or is at risk of becoming infected with HIV versus the same stats for straight women. You obviously can’t cut everyone out, just the highest risk, and we are BY FAR the highest risk. And unless they start implementing lie detectors, how do you assume they would be able to tell if someone is lying? Just because there is this possibility that someone could game the system they should automatically throw open the floodgates and let everyone donate? That’s hardly effective or diplomatic. It astounds me that, given that we are talking about the safety of the public and keeping them out of harm’s way, that the gay community seems that they could care less because they feel they’re being discriminated against. To the gay community, gay rights seem to trump public safety, public welfare, or any other social issue. Maybe the gay community should stop being so damned selfish and self-righteous. If you were in need of a life-saving blood transfusion and they gave you a choice of blood from a lesbian, straight woman, straight man or gay man, who truthfully would you pick? I would pick the lesbian’s first and the gay man’s as an absolute last resort. And I’m pretty sure that most of you, if honest, would choose the same

  • Bob LaBlah

    I sure miss the good ol’ days when the cry from the gay community was “find a cure for AIDS”, but the gay marriage issue hijacked the ENTIRE community. Hopefully, no unfaithful HUSBAND will take the disease home to his…………as I said, I miss the good ol’ days. If it weren’t for this article one would have thought these diseases were history long forgotten in our community.

  • Kangol

    Of course if it’s going to save others’ lives.

    He’s a cutie!

  • truthteller

    Ok, yes is this young mayor is a total hottie (there…my homosexual urge has been released)
    I see this as an amazing opportunity, as I believe does the Mayor, to bring to light this very outdated ruling, while at the same time showing that as a nation we have very low levels of blood banks, not to mention organ donations.

    It is possible to deal with two issues at the same time and not be so my optic. As Mayor, he does have an obligation to his entire community, but as an intelligent gay man, he has a moral responsiblity to speak out against this rule. Both are good and necessary.

    I was in a similar situation when I was mayor, just kidding, at work when I was asked to coordinate our office blood drive. I decided to do my duty but also inform the straights that I could not donate, as I stood at the booth most of the day. Many agreed with me and spoke out…even though nothing changed. But I gotta say, if something happens to me or one of my loved ones, I hope there is enough donated blood to save our lives.

  • LandStander

    @bigomega73 Exactly, they do not give lie detector tests, so they are taking MSM blood already, they just do not know when. And if I needed a blood transfusion, I do not care what type of person it came from, as long as the blood was tested. And it is.

  • CaptainFabulous

    No. Not only should he not host it, he should be spearheading a campaign to boycott it until the discriminatory practices are redacted.

    When I was in college and president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance this is exactly what we did. While we weren’t able to shut down the blood drive in progress, we got the school to ban them and all other similar agencies from having any future drives or presence on campus due to the policies that blatantly discriminate against gays and women.

  • mlbumiller

    Well, if they are going continue to deferr gay men as a demographic, then they need to deferr all people 16-25 which has the second highest rate of infection.

  • bigomega73

    @LandStander as I’m sure it is for most, I love it when someone completely ignores a point I’ve already made and forces me to repeat myself. Please read my first comment. The viral load test has a window period of one week in which time it CANNOT detect if there is HIV in the blood. This means that the test is not as reliable as apparently most of you believe. Which is why the Red Cross and FDA have to reduce the risk that someone may be giving infected blood.

  • comus

    @Bob LaBlah: Marriage equality hasn’t “hijacked” anything. Remaining in our ghettos–ostracized, cut-off, and begging, er, sorry, marching for government intervention–wasn’t “the good ol’ days.” We can exclusively address the ills that are a symptom of our social isolation or we can work towards changing the root causes of the isolation itself. I remember the ’80s, too, and in 2013, whenever I see a straight politician in some statehouse standing up for marriage rights, I know we are achieving something real. And what has a sole focus on HIV and STD prevention wrought in 30 years? A reduction in neither.

  • CaptainFabulous

    @bigomega73: Or, y’know, instead of discriminating against an entire class of people using regulations based on old, outdated 30-year old science you, I dunno, just test the blood again?

  • hyhybt

    @bigomega73: If the window is a week, then ANY rationally-based deferral would be on a comparable timescale. Not a lifetime ban. Not even a year, or five.

    But working to change a policy that irrationally limits the blood supply on an anti-gay discriminatory basis needs to be done in a way that *doesn’t* hinder donations by those who *are* eligible under the current rules. Otherwise you’re punishing the sick and injured who need transfusions or other blood products to live.

Comments are closed.