Officials at Santa Rosa’s two blood banks welcomed Tuesday’s FDA decision to lift the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, saying it was a move based on science as well as a policy change that many have been advocating.
“We’re pleased that the FDA is going in this direction and it is certainly consistent with our position all along,” said Kent Corley, spokesman for the Blood Centers of the Pacific, which serves 50 hospitals from Silicon Valley to the Oregon border and operates a facility in Santa Rosa.
“I do believe it is very much predicated in science and medicine,” said Dr. Chris Gresens, senior medical director for BloodSource, which has a Santa Rosa clinic. “It certainly could be a very good thing.”
In Sonoma County, Bloodsource has about 2,000 donors, a number that has been increasing, said Katherine Elorduy, director of communications.
Officials at the blood banks said it would be difficult to determine how much of an increase they potentially could receive at their local clinics because of the FDA’s policy change .
About 5 percent of Sonoma County residents donate blood on a regular basis, mirroring the national average, Corley said.
The decision rankled at least one local gay-rights advocate, given that the draft guidelines would exclude men who have had sex with a male within a year.
“Why does this apply to us?” said Guerneville attorney Stephen Zollman. “I think there needs to be some clarity from them (the FDA) on why?”
Many gay men long have felt excluded at times of national crisis, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 attacks, when pleas for blood donations spike, he said.
“We are part of the fabric of our community … we have always wanted to roll up our sleeves to help,” he said. “At the same time we are crippled by some arbitrary ban … it doesn’t make sense.”