INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The blood shortage is now at a critical level.
The American Red Cross says to keep up with demand, they’ll need 1,000 donations a day. But even with the shortage, gay men still face more stringent rules to qualify to donate.
The Red Cross blood donation requirements are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, the Red Cross say it seeks to build inclusion an diversity when it comes to their lifesaving mission. They’re partnering with LGBTQ community health organizations to create changes with eligibility. Advocates hope eligibility requirement changes lead to higher donation rates.
In addition to the strain that COVID-19 has put on hospitals around the state, hospitals are also experiencing high numbers of trauma, emergency visits, organ transplants and elective surgeries. All of those can pull from the blood supply stores.
“For those who are eligible, we are really asking for you to come out and donate. It can be your mother, your sister, your nephew, your cousin, who may need that blood,” said LaMar Holliday with the Red Cross.
To encourage donations, the Red Cross is now also offering gift cards to donors.
“We’re doing everything we can to really let people know that this is not a normal blood shortage. This is a severe blood shortage,” Holliday said.
LGBTQ+ advocates said this shortage shines a light on an issue that’s had major impacts on gay men. There are limitations on when they can donate — limitations often not imposed on heterosexual and lesbian donors. The blood donation rules are set by the FDA, and organizations like the Red Cross have to follow them.
“The policies have gotten better for men who have sex with other men. But the challenges with that is it’s still linked to a group of people that is often linked to people’s identities and who they are individual risk assessment,” said Carrie Foote with the HIV modernization movement.
Foote was diagnosed with HIV back in the 1980s. She says long standing stigmas on HIV and gay men continue to create concerns. Gay men can’t have sex for at least three months to be eligible to donate.
“We would have better assessment, better screening, if we ask for just for behaviors as opposed to who exactly we’re having sex with,” she said.
And while the FDA considers potential changes to the law the Red Cross is taking it’s owns steps to address inclusion and equity in the donation process.