The American Red Cross and Bloodworks Northwest say there’s an unprecedented shortage of lifesaving blood in the region. Oregon’s U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is calling for a rule change to make more people eligible to give blood.

A mobile donation vehicle used by the American Red Cross. Red Cross implemented safety protocols for the pandemic, including spacing beds 6-feet apart, requiring face masks, and additional wipe downs of donor areas.

A mobile donation vehicle used by the American Red Cross. Red Cross implemented safety protocols for the pandemic, including spacing beds 6-feet apart, requiring face masks, and additional wipe downs of donor areas.

Jason E. Miczek / Courtesy of American Red Cross

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The Red Cross lists the details of the rule in question on its website. “You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.” The website goes on to describe several conditions that the organization considers risky.

This list states you should not donate if you “are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, in the last 3 months,” or “have had sexual contact in the past 3 months with anyone described above.” The list also includes other, less controversial, risk factors like taking recreational drugs and accepting money in exchange for sex.

This rule excludes many different types of people from donating blood because of their sexual orientations, and has roots in the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Today, it has the effect of excluding many people who want to donate blood, including some who may be in committed monogamous relationships or marriages.

Wyden, a Democrat, said there needs to be a change in the rules because this policy is not based on science.

“If folks in the LGBTQ community pass all the screens, the way everyone else does, I believe they ought to be allowed to donate at a time when there’s such an urgent need for blood,” Wyden said.

Wyden said he is making that push on the federal level. There is a pilot study underway by the FDA that could lead to a rule change.

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