It was not long ago when people worried about getting the “wrong color blood” and blood was segregated by race. During World War II, Dr. Drew Charles, an African American doctor, asserted the fact, that aside from its type ie A, B, O or AB, all blood was the same. The medical pioneer developed the lifesaving technology of separating blood plasma and the practice of “blood banking.”
During today’s world war on coronavirus, one of the few potential treatments showing real signs of efficacy is convalescent plasma therapy. After someone is fully recovered, their plasma with covid-19 antibodies is collected and given to a severely ill patient. Each donation can potentially save 3 – 4 lives.
But fears, bigotries, and outdated practices are standing in the way of gay men who have survived covid-19 from stepping up to save the lives of those fighting for theirs. FDA rules and restrictions on gay men donating blood and/or blood plasma were meant to “protect” the blood supply from HIV/AIDs, but Lukus Estok, a gay man, who met all the donation criteria found out even then his “pink blood” wasn’t welcome.
Lukus’s journey to help save lives with his blood plasma is featured in a report by Gio Benitez on GMA.
This COVID-19 survivor told @GMA he was turned away from a blood center for being gay.
Now the FDA tells us they are looking into ending a policy that prevented him from giving blood and plasma.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 24, 2020
From GMA’s full online report,
“…the revised FDA 3-month deferral period guidelines include gay and bisexual men who are in a monogamous relationship, gay and bisexual men who are practicing safe sex as well as gay and bisexual men who are HIV-negative. By comparison, a straight man who is in a polygamous relationship or engages with multiple female sex partners has no outright restrictions on giving blood based on his sexual activity.”
“Three months is still an unacceptable barrier to ask a certain section of the population and not the rest of the population to have to clear,” Lukus Estok told “GMA. We don’t need old stigma dictating the way that we make medical and scientific decisions. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Science is supposed to inform the way we make decisions.”
Read GMA’s entire report and the FDA and New York Blood Center’s response below.
With the critical shortage of blood nationally and the lifesaving potential of plasma treatments the antiquated and stigma-based restrictions on gay blood donations must. Take action by adding your name to HRC’s letter to the FDA.
Crises like #COVID19 don’t discriminate. Our blood donation policies shouldn’t either.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 22, 2020
(main image via Facebook)