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LGBTQ+ advocates call for change as nation faces blood donation shortage

Posted at 8:08 PM, Jan 13, 2022

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The American Red Cross is reporting the United States faces the worst blood shortage in over a decade.

"I think there's a lot of excuses that people throw out to explain away discriminatory practices, but at the end of the day we want to help save people's lives we want to make people feel part of the community and this is something that doesn't make sense in our modern world," said Conklin.

And now members of the LGBTQ+ community are speaking out as many who want to help the cause continue to be turned away.

"You can't tell gay blood from straight blood. All blood is blood," said Dylan Brooks, the director of HIV prevention & education at the Compass Community Center in Lake Worth Beach. "I feel like after the PULSE tragedy there was such a need for massive blood donations but because of the strict restrictions on LGBTQ+ folks donating blood we couldn't go and donate our own brothers and sisters."

And now that the nation faces a blood donation shortage LGBTQ+ members continue to be excluded.

"At the end of the day, if someone needs a blood donation, I don't care if I'm getting it from this person or that person, I know that I need life saving blood," said Brooks.

According to FDA rules, you can't donate blood if in the last three months you're a man who has had sex with another man or if you're a woman who has had sex with a man who has also had sex with a man.

"Historically and statistically, it was shown that gay and bisexual men who had sex with men were one of the highest rates for new HIV infections in the US but actually here in Palm Beach County, it's been shown that black heterosexual females are one of the newer higher rates of HIV infections," said Brooks.

The CDC said all blood that is donated is screened for pathogens such as HIV and advocates say it's time to do away with restrictions that are only limiting the supply.

"In all reality, the blood banks are testing for all blood borne pathogens not just HIV there's Hepatitis C, there's other infections beyond just HIV that they're testing for on a regular basis. So to specifically discriminate gay and bisexual men who have sex with men from donating blood and having to maintain that three-month abstinence period I think is completely ludacris," said Brooks.

"The more people that are able to donate blood, will donate blood," said Sean Conklin, who is on the board of directors with the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

For Conklin, he encourages everyone to continue raising awareness and to vote for people who will make change happen in the coming elections.