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New York mayor begs for blood donations to stem overwhelming shortages, but gay and bisexual men are still being excluded

Nick Duffy May 18, 2020
New York's supply of blood is running low.

New York's supply of blood is running low. (Photo by Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has urged people to donate blood due to widespread shortages of supply, but blood banks in the city have been turning away eligible gay donors.

The mayor used his daily briefing to call on people to donate to the New York City Blood Center, warning that supplies are now critically low in the city.

He said: “So many New Yorkers are saying in this crisis: ‘What can I do? How can I help?’

“One thing you can definitely do, the one thing that will help for sure, is to give blood in this moment of crisis… you’ll be helping your fellow New Yorker and helping to keep people safe.”

Of the shortages, de Blasio added: “Unless we have a bigger supply of blood some surgeries cannot move forward. Obviously, things that are immediate and life-saving will, but others can’t until there’s more of a blood supply.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for people to donate blood - but even eligible gay and bisexual men are still being prevented from doing so
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for people to donate blood – but even eligible gay and bisexual men are still being prevented from doing so (Photo: Ron Adar / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

However, the call comes just one week after it was revealed that even gay and bisexual men who are eligible to donate blood are still being turned away from donating in New York.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in February that it would “immediately” relax rules first imposed during the AIDS crisis, which banned men who have sex with men from giving blood unless they abstain from sex for a year.

In line with international standards, the new FDA rules state that queer men should be permitted to give blood if they have not had sex in the last three months.

New York senator not allowed to donate despite easing of gay blood ban.

However as New York state senator Brad Hoylman found out to his detriment this month, the change in rules is not yet being consistently enacted, with the out lawmaker turned away from donating at New York Blood Center despite meeting the requirements to do so.

Hoylman, who is gay, revealed he had personally attempted to register as a donor, but was rejected because the state continues to use the outdated screening guidelines.

In a letter to the head of the New York Blood Center, Christopher Hillyer, the politician wrote: “I attempted to donate blood at the NYBC facility at 200 Park Avenue because I qualify under the new guidelines.

“I was rejected as a donor because NYBC continues to use the outdated screening guidelines of a waiting period of one year instead of three months for gay and bisexual men like me.”

According to NBC News, blood donation centre across the US are still applying the old rules — with many blaming outdated computer systems and paperwork.

More: Bill de Blasio, New York City

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