CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The American Red Cross and other blood donating centers are implementing a new screening policy from the Food and Drug Administration.
The policy, which the FDA announced back in May, allows gay, bisexual and transgender men to donate blood. Previously, it was required that men who engaged in sexual activities with other men TO stay abstinent for three months before they could donate.
Now, the three-month waiting period applies to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
Many activists within the LGBTQ+ community have fought for the initial policy to change, especially with nationwide blood shortages.
In the 1980's, the policy was created in effort to establish a lifetime blood donation ban on men within the LGBTQ+ community. It was changed in 2015, offering gay or bisexual men the ability to donate for 12 months after their last sexual encounter with another man. It was later reduced to three months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robert Kymes with the Coastal Bend Pride Center said this is a hopeful situation.
“Now that we’ve gotten time and a lot of research has come along with that and testing measures" Kymes said. "All of that has come into play to where now, we can go ahead and include the LGBT community.”
Kymes went through his own personal experience of rejection when trying to donate blood. He and a group of friends went to a local blood drive, however, Kymes was turned away when the donation center realized his sexual orientation.
"It made me feel terrible," Kymes said. "They came over to me and were like, 'Hey, we can't allow you to donate blood.' I asked them why and they told me that it was because of what I put on my form. It stuck with me so much that I haven't tried to donating blood again."
The Coastal Bend Blood Center is a local group that plans to adjust to the FDA's new policy change. However, they won't put it into effect for another couple of months.
"We plan on implementing this in the fall. It comes with a lot of extensive training and we want to make sure that all of our employees are trained properly and that it’s conducted with the appropriate due diligence," Ashley Ramirez with the The Coastal Bend Blood Center said.
With the historical change, the blood center said this now opens doors for more blood donations, which could save more lives.
“It’s a big step in moving forward for equality and fairness for everyone," Ramirez said. "We’re excited about that because at the end of the day, that’s our primary goal is to obtain as many blood donations, so that we can save as many lives as possible here in our community.”
The Coastal Bend Blood Center is open six days a week and also has mobile blood centers throughout the community to encourage people to donate more.
The center said their goal is to obtain 120 donations, however, they haven't been reaching their goal consistently. The effort to gain more donations has increased in the last three years.
Learn about how you can donate on their website.