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‘New base of donors,’ Locals say change allowing gay, bisexual men to donate blood to help with supply issues

More gay and bisexual men will be able to give blood, under new donation rules by the Federal Drug Administration.

For years, gay and bisexual men have faced restrictions for donating blood.

“If we can give blood to our fellow humans, and especially when we are in crisis for blood, why shouldn’t we?”

Cathedral City resident, James Paramore, had worked in the medical field for 35 years. He remembers the time when gay men were not able to donate blood.

“Giving part of their life to someone else to save them is probably the most precious thing anyone can do. And, not allowing us is the most ridiculous thing I can say," Paramore said.

Being HIV positive since 1985, Paramore has never been able to donate. He says those who are able should not be treated differently, because they are gay or bisexual.

“Not just gay people have autoimmune diseases or may have contagious diseases. Don’t take us out of the market, let us be part of humanity. Let us share our love to help another person to survive," Paramore explained.

With the FDA updating its guidelines, it’s a pivotal change for blood banks.

At Lifestream Blood Bank, they continue to face a blood shortage. With this change in FDA policy, they say they can make a big difference in supply.

“We were excited because we knew that our community was going to benefit from this change in the regulation," said Dr. Rick Axelrod, CEO and President of Lifestream.

Dr. Axelrod says this a change they’ve been waiting for.

The FDA created new screening questions to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV.

“No longer are people deferred because of sexual orientation, it is now about sexual practice, sexual activity. All donors, whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, are being asked the same question.”

For years, Dr. Axelrod has supported the removal of restrictions for gay and bisexual men. With the constant shortage of blood in the Valley, he says this could help save more lives.

“Gay men are pretty philanthropic. They like to donate their time, they like to give to good causes," he added. "So now, we’re including a whole new base of donors that are allowed to donate that weren’t allowed to donate before.”

This change will not happen overnight, but will be implemented in the months to come.

“The easy part was FDA approving the guidance. Now, the more difficult part is implementing it in our system. We have to make changes in our computer system. We have to make changes on our donor history questionnaire. And we have to train all of our staff to the new guidelines, and that's going to take 90 to 120 days," he said.

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.


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