Gay mayor invited to host blood drive in which he can’t donate
Mayor Evan Low with City of Campbell police and fire personnel. Photo: Evan Low.
When he was selected by fellow San Francisco Bay Area city council members in 2009, the presently 30-year-old Evan Low became the youngest, openly gay, Asian-American mayor in the nation. The “boy wonder” of the City of Campbell has an interesting proposal sitting on his desk that brings much irony for the mayor, and attention to what many gay men have long claimed as blatant, unnecessary discrimination by the Federal government.
The Northern California Blood Services Division of the American Red Cross is engaging cities and towns to participate in its City Blood Challenge 2013. It is a competition between Northern California municipalities to collect blood donations from August 1 to September 30, a summer period where there’s great need for the resource in 27 area hospitals.
Mayor Low pondered the irony of hosting a citywide blood drive in which, as a gay man, current U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration policy bans him from donating.
“FDA realizes that this policy leads to deferral of many healthy donors. However, FDA’s MSM policy minimizes even the small risk of getting infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis through a blood transfusion. Due to the generosity of millions of eligible donors, the blood supply in the US has been very stable,” the federal agency explains. ”FDA would change this policy only if supported by scientific data showing that a change in policy would not present a significant and preventable risk to blood recipients.”
Opponents of the ban claim that there are very thorough medical tests already being done to the blood to protect blood recipients from getting blood-borne diseases. Is there a need to screen out a very particular subset of the population with the medical testing in place?
Invitation to participate in City Blood Challenge 2013. Photo: Evan Low.
Thinking out loud, Mayor Low said, “I am conflicted. I want to support the Red Cross, but because of the FDA 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?”
Does Mayor Low raise awareness by protesting the ban by non-participation in the City Blood Challenge? Or does he put aside a major issue for the gay community to help raise the blood supply when it is most needed—with the discrimination in place? How does one give but fight the exclusion?
It’s an interesting moral dilemma for the mayor.